TRENTON, N.S.—Time appears to be running out to find a new operator for a former wind tower manufacturing plant in northeastern Nova Scotia developed with $56 million in provincial funding.
In an interview Feb. 15 following a tour of the former DSME Trenton plant, Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said the province would have to make a decision on what comes next by the end of this fiscal year if a buyer isn’t found.
“We are coming to a point where we have to make a final decision on this,” said MacLellan.
The minister said possible future steps could include finding buyers for the equipment, or in the worst case scenario, liquidating the plant’s assets.
“The best case scenario for the Pictou County region and for the government and the province is to find a buyer that would operate this (plant) in its totality,” said MacLellan.
However, he wouldn’t speculate on the likelihood of that possibility given the time remaining.
“Obviously we are remaining hopeful,” he said, although he couldn’t give specifics on how many business entities had expressed interest in the plant.
MacLellan said two years into the receivership process and near the end of a second round of bids, it’s costing the province $150,000 a month to keep the plant in operational shape.
The first round of bids was abandoned in late 2016 after the province rejected three, including two of only $1.
The plant closed in February 2016 after taxpayers had sunk $56.3 million into the facility. Operations wrapped up less than a month after the province said it wouldn’t put any more public money into a plant that had hoped to develop the capacity to produce 250 wind turbine towers and 200 blade sets per year.
The previous NDP government announced in 2010 it had taken a 49 per cent equity stake in the firm, committed up to $59.4 million to the manufacturing plant and predicted 500 jobs would be created within three years.
At the time of the closure, DSME told the province that it couldn’t start payment on $36 million in repayable loans.
Former business minister Mark Furey said in November 2016 that he didn’t know whether there was an opportunity to recover “any of those losses.”
MacLellan said nothing had changed since then.
“There’s no conversations I’m having about recovering any of the loans or the investment that was made by the previous government,” he said.
The province is the primary secured creditor for the plant.