When it was announced on Dec. 2 that Ocean Choice International would be permanently closing two of their plants, in Port Union and Marystown, the news that $5 million worth of investments would be made to five of OCI's other plants didn't seem to soften the blow.
The Packet has learned that $2 million of those investments will be spent modernizing the Bonavista crab processing plant, with remaining funds to be divided between Port Aux Choice, Triton, St. Lawrence and Fortune.
The work is slated to begin next August and will be completed in time for the 2013 crab season said OCI president and CEO Martin Sullivan.
"Bonavista is a core plant for us. We want to make sure it's a modern plant for the future. It's time it saw some investment."
Martin said this is phase one of possibly a three phase operation. The work will involve removing a part of the existing plant to put in cold storage and revamp the production space.
"There will be some new equipment, but quite a bit of the existing equipment will be reused," said Sullivan.
He also said the decision to invest in the Bonavista facility, and the other plants, was made before OCI decided to shut down operations in Port Union and Marystown.
In Bonavista, the news has been well received. Mayor Betty Fitzgerald said the work has been a long time coming and is glad the town will be able to continue to employ people under the OCI banner.
"Right now, things are going well. We've had a good relationship over the years, hopefully we can continue that sort of working relationship," she said.
Fitzgerald expressed concern in previous years regarding the nature of OCI investing in plants that were losing money while her town's operation remained feasible.
"We stood by for years and watched money going into every other plant in Newfoundland and our plant didn't get one cent."
Her resolution was to remain optimistic a deal would get done.
"I don't beleive in thinking negative. If we think positive we can get more (projects) for our area."
Fitzgerald also takes an interest in OCI's recent announcement about policies regarding government restrictions on minimum processing requirements. Regarding the nature of business trying to produce a product at the lowest possible cost, she said that sort of system simply does not work in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Our province can't do it any cheaper, especially with the cost of living going up all the time. They (China) do it cheaper becuase they live cheaper than us. We've got look at how can we deal with those issues, how can we help our own people?
"Fishery is never going to go away from Newfoundland because it's in their blood. it's like taking away their life."