Ubiquity Solar has plans to build full-scale plant on TransAlta site down the road
By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer
Monday, December 29, 2014 2:57:20 EST PM
George Mallay can point to several economic success stories in the region over the past year, as the general manager of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership looks ahead to 2015.
The county-funded economic office is charged with promoting and selling the region, its economy and its workforce.
Most recently, Mallay joined representatives of a dozens local organizations announcing the new tag line, "Discoveries That Matter," as part of a $70,000 branding exercise for Sarnia-Lambton.
He also pointed to ongoing work with the Sarnia-Lambton Industrial Alliance, a group of metal fabricators and other companies that service industry.
They have been working together in recent times to connect with new markets, beyond their traditional sources of work in Chemical Valley, and have begun bidding and securing projects located outside of the area.
"It's very positive for the community," Mallay said.
The continued construction of the $135-million BioAmber plant on Vidal Street in Sarnia is another positive sign, he said.
"Sarnia is in a phase of rapid progress and is beginning its final sprint to mechanical completion," Jean-Francois Huc, BioAmber's chief executive officer, said recently.
The plant that will use high fructose corn syrup to manufacture bio-succinic acid, a platform chemical used in the making of plastic, cosmetics and other products, remains on-budget and on-schedule to be completed in early 2015, Huc said.
Approximately 200 construction workers were on the work site daily through the later portions of 2014.
The plant is expected to employ 60 permanent workers. The company has already begun hiring and training staff.
Also this past year, the startup Ubiquity Solar made progress, securing a $3.1 million contribution from the federal government through Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
The funding will help the company with its plans for a high-performance PV polysilicon and ingot pilot plant in Sarnia to service the solar energy industry.
"They're a bit behind schedule, but they still plan on building a pilot plant, with eventual plans for a polysilicon plant on the TransAlta site that would create several hundred jobs," Mallay said.
Early in 2014, Montreal-Based Atelka announced it was coming to Sarnia to open a call centre at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park.
"They're up to about 400 jobs now," Mallay said.
Also in 2014, the economic partnership's Business Enterprise Centre worked with a number of companies that opened 34 startup businesses, Mallay said.
And, early in the winter of 2014, Nova Chemicals held a ceremony at its Corunna site to celebrate the arrival of its new supply of shale gas feedstock.
"That's a big thing for our area, and we're seeing plans to bring more shale gas there," Mallay said.
"We're looking at trying to secure funding to do a study related to shale gas and identify best prospects and projects in that space."
Mallay said the partnership has been seeing an increase in the number of potential investors taking a look at the community, including those exploring opportunities around industrial bio-products.
"We do have a strong pipeline of prospects in that area," he said.
Mallay also sits on the board of Bio-Industrial Innovation Canada, a group involved in study attempting to locate a plant in Sarnia-Lambton that would produce sugar for industrial uses from corn.
"That's an important project for the area," Mallay said.
At the same time, he said, a local group continues its work to attract a new refinery to the community that would upgrade western oil sands bitumen, as an alternative to shipping that raw resources to refineries outside of Canada.
The partnership has also been looking at the opportunities locally in energy storage and will begin a creative industry mapping exercise in the new year.
"We also had a project where we went out and started to talk to firms that are export-oriented that we've identified," Mallay said.
They discovered a number of local companies that haven't been taking advantage of programs available to assist exporting.
Mallay said the partnership will be working to connect those business to that additional support.
"There is some good funding out there for exporting."