By GERALD GABRIEL
I write regarding the recently announced partnership between Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Inc. (DSME) and the province to invest in a manufacturing operation that will produce wind turbine components at the TrentonWorks facility in the town of Trenton. I believe this is a strategic investment that will pay dividends to not only the residents of Pictou County, but all Nova Scotians.
First, attracting to the province a partner of DSME’s quality should be considered an economic development coup. This is the second major direct North American investment made by this prolific multinational, which clearly has the expertise and global reach to make things happen. Its decision to partner with Nova Scotia is part of a larger corporate decision to become involved in the burgeoning industry of producing power from renewable resources (e.g. wind and tides) in North America and throughout the world.
Second, this partnership has several components. An associated part of the deal is a memorandum of understanding with Nova Scotia Power to explore potential mutual investment in tidal power development. This could be a win-win situation that results in further investment by both parties to successfully harness the world’s greatest tides. Such investment in Nova Scotia would create additional jobs and, perhaps even more importantly, foster local research and development expertise in this cutting-edge technology.
Third, this deal in Pictou County aligns well with an existing company in Nova Scotia, namely Composites Atlantic in Lunenburg, a company that produces high-end products for the aerospace sector. The towers for the wind turbines that Daewoo will fabricate are made of metal; but the blades are made of a composite. Although this is not spelled out at this stage, there is clearly a synergy between Composites Atlantic and Daewoo that provides the opportunity for the two firms to work together on the blade components. This could be a win-win for both businesses, with the result that highly skilled fabrication is augmented in Nova Scotia.
It is for these reasons that I suggest that this decision to partner with Daewoo at the Trenton facility is indeed strategic for the province of Nova Scotia.
There has been much discourse within the media about the terms of the investment by the province with Daewoo. However, as Charles Cirtwill, president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, stated in a recent CBC Radio interview, there is nothing unusual about the terms of this investment agreement — “they are typical of these types of economic development endeavours.”
There is no doubt that there are risks associated with this investment. But that’s the nature of economic development.
I would also like to offer a comment about the community implications of this decision. It must be appreciated that TrentonWorks has long been part of the economic fabric of Pictou County. When Greenbrier (former owner and operator) closed its doors at the plant almost three years ago, it put a lot of people out of work and jeopardized the livelihood of many families and local businesses. This decision to invest in a new high-tech manufacturing facility has significant social ramifications for the community. Certainly it will put a lot of people to work, but it will also add to the spirit of hope and renewal for the future.
A few days ago, the leaders of our six municipalities issued a collective welcome to Daewoo, under the banner Forward Together. Their joint action speaks of the strong recognition of what this investment decision means to the people of Pictou County. It is an investment that looks to the future, building on the strengths of the past and positioning Pictou County to forge new skills and opportunities in the years and decades to come.
I applaud this decision by the provincial government. It aligns well with the province’s stated objective to have one of the cleanest and most sustainable environments by 2020. It represents a strategic investment for the people of Nova Scotia, as it has the potential to be the platform for creating significant opportunities for multiple partners in the province, generating substantial economic benefits.
It positions the province to potentially become a world leader in wind turbine production and tidal energy exploration. It sends a strong message that rural areas have an important role to play in the technological and manufacturing development of Nova Scotia.
Gerald Gabriel is executive director, Pictou Regional Development Commission.