The CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority says Richardson International Limited’s planned purchase of the Viterra C grain elevator could mean the return of jobs for idled workers.
The $900-million deal, which must meet government requirements and shareholder approval in May is a good indication the Canadian company intends to re-open the elevator, which has been closed for more than a year, says Tim Heney.
“That’s going to be a positive thing for the port,” Heney said on Wednesday, once the nature of a larger $6.1-billion, deal that would see Swiss-based Glencore PLC take over Viterra, flipping the latter company’s Canadian assets, including the Thunder Bay property in question, to Richardson.
“If Richardson gets that additional capacity, I’m sure they’ll make good use of it, so that aspect we see as a positive.”
Heney estimated Viterra C, located next to the Current River, employed about 40 workers before closing last year.
“If it is indeed the case they get control of C-House then they will utilize that capacity, I’m sure. C-House is one of the better elevators in Thunder Bay, in terms of its modernization, so we’re glad to see that asset back in service.”
Richardson, which employs 1,700 —people in Canada, already operates one grain elevator in Thunder Bay and in a release announcing the purchase appears to back what Heney was saying.
“Richardson’s agreement with Glencore includes the purchase of a 25 per cent ownership interest in Cascadia Terminal (in Vancouver), which will allow Richardson to ship increased volumes of grain and oil seeds through that port following the acquisition,” the release, dated March 12, states.
“Richardson will also acquire a Viterra terminal in Thunder Bay, which will enhance the company’s current operations in that port.”
The president of the union local that represents grain workers in Thunder Bay is being cautiously optimistic about the news.
Herb Daniher, the local United Steelworkers staff representative, on Wednesday said there are a few questions left to be answered before he and his membership get too excited about the multinational deal.
“The sale has to be completed, it has to go through the regulatory hurdles, it has to go to the board of directors and It has to go to the shareholders,” Daniher said.
“As far as employment goes, it remains to be seen. One of the companies is going to reopen the facility, so it should create some work.”
Daniher added it’s the first time in two decades the city has seen a closed grain elevator reopen.
That’s the positive. But there is a looming negative, he said.
“Is there enough grain volume to keep all of these facilities viable? And that’s a question to be answered going forward,” he said.
Thunder Bay saw record amounts of canola pass through its ports in 2011, an estimated 1.4 million tonnes.