by Paul H. J. Cormier, Chairman, RANA
Folks may not know this, but, at one time, another use was proposed for the vacant land now ear-marked for a prison. Once upon a time, and shortly after its election, the Municipality expressed interest in acquiring the land from the Province. Agritech Alliance Canada Ltd (AAC), a not-for-profit consortium that included local businesspeople, had approached the Municipality to take advantage of the opportunity for purchase. AAC had prepared a P3 Agreement, i.e. a Public-Private Partnership Agreement, to get the ball rolling. We all then found out that, due to a “clerical error”, the land had to be offered to other provincial government departments before it could be “released” to the Municipality. In the final analysis, AAC and the Mayor’s office met with Minister Steve Clark to gain support for the P3. Though Minister Clark pledged his support for the initiative, he also announced that “the land would not become available in the near future”.
The P3 document described a North Grenville Agro-Environmental Research Centre for North Grenville, patterned somewhat along the lines of the federal government’s research stations across the country. It included:
Re-development of the A.M. Barr Arena and its contributing stables into a full equestrian operation, respecting the intent for which it was built, and holding a broad range of country style events to bring visitors to North Grenville (e.g. Ploughing matches, agricultural fairs, Royals, etc.);
Using the dairy facility to perform research and development into milk and milk products beyond what is available in the current marketplace, including opportunities for export;
Developing the old barn into a museum of agriculture, celebrating the many years that the KCAT was in operation, and also North Grenville’s agricultural roots;
Using the remaining buildings as support for the construction and operation of:
a. A Vertical Farm, growing leafy greens (and not marijuana);
b. An aquaculture installation for producing all sizes of selected species of fish, ranging in size from fingerlings to fully developed adults.
Under the terms of the P3, the site would have been purchased by the Municipality, using AAC investment monies, and governed by a Board made up of Municipal and AAC members. Returns from the various ventures were either to be ploughed back into the R&D work or, under the terms regulating Not-for-Profits, shared between the Municipality and AAC. It was anticipated that, over a period of time and based on income from the venture, the Municipality would simply repay the original investment and integrate the site to the current College initiative while retaining its research and development nature.
The benefits from such a venture were deemed to be numerous, for example:
- The projects that were planned demonstrated respect for the agricultural nature of the site and built on North Grenville’s green strategy, by including environmental research and development.
- The project was aimed at attracting international students learning how to operate a Vertical Farm in other climates and circumstances.
- It made use of current college facilities for services, e.g. the residence, for visiting scientists, technicians and students.
- It would attract clean technology, as well as the white and blue collar staff members necessary to operate it, quite apart from local recruiting of needed talent.
- It would provide income to the Municipality in the form of profit sharing and taxation.
It is the belief of the AAC that a splendid opportunity was lost, one that would have benefitted both the Municipality of North Grenville as well as the Provincial Government. Pride of ownership was involved in the North Grenville Agro-Environmental Research Centre; such might not be the case with the construction of a correctional facility.