Chatham-Kent economic development officials aren’t overly concerned a $45-million Blenheim-area development is delayed.
Saskatchewan-based Brightenview Development International announced last fall it would build the 680,000-square-foot facility in Blenheim’s industrial park. The huge building – which is being called the Global Development Centre – is hoped to eventually be home to as many as 80-100 different offshore businesses.
Council approved the sale of 34 acres of land at its Sept. 22, 2014 meeting, with several conditions. One stated, “The Purchaser shall commence construction, renovation, enlargement, extension, or other construction, as the case may be, within one year of the registration of the deed or transfer and shall diligently complete construction or renovation of the building or structure.”
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The closing date was to be April 20, but with a caveat to finish the project inside of a year of that date, Brightenview officials asked to push it back 180 days. Council agreed at its April 20 meeting.
Michael Burton, head of economic development for the municipality, said he met with Brightenview’s Joe Zhou recently to discuss the issues.
“Basically they have a major project they are working on in Saskatchewan,” Burton said. “They just want to make sure they have all their ducks in a row for this project.”
He said Brightenview has yet to incorporate the company in Ontario, and is still preparing its marketing materials.
Another delay is due to changes at the provincial level, Burton said.
“Ontario is revamping its investor support program. That’s a major concern,” he said. “They (Brightenview) want clarity on that program. The whole project depends upon getting investors from overseas.”
Burton is hopeful the changes will be positive ones at the provincial government level.
“We expect it will be better. Our expectation is there will be improvements to the program. It hasn’t been that successful over the years,” he said. “We haven’t had many investors go through it. We’ve had one. They’ve been applying for about two years now.”
Burton said in the past, several government ministries handled the process in the past, but expects it will all fall under Michael Chan, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade in the near future.
“I know Minister Chan wants to speed up the process significantly,” Burton said.
With these changes looming, and Brightenview tying up key personnel at a Saskatchewan project, Burton doesn’t see Zhou getting cold feet.
“It was all reasonable. He’s committed. He thinks it can be a great success,” he said.
Still, Burton said he would have liked to see the land deal at least close.
As it stands, council left the door open for other investors to come in and bid on the property, if they are interested. Burton said Brightenview has right of first refusal, being able to match the asking price should such a company show up.
He said his personnel aren’t actively seeking a replacement for the Brightenview project, however.
“We wanted to keep the option if someone comes in and they want some of that land,” he said. “It’s not like we’re out pounding the bushes for that piece of property, but investors sometimes come in. We’d show them the property, sure.”
If nothing changes, Brightenview has until mid-October to close the land deal.