Ar­gen­tia looks to the fu­ture

Lo­cal man­age­ment author­ity has big plans for port

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NICHOLAS MERCER

There is plenty of op­ti­mism around the Ar­gen­tia Man­age­ment Author­ity (AMA) th­ese days.

The group, which op­er­ates the mas­sive for­mer United States mil­i­tary base in Ar­gen­tia, aims to en­hance the Pla­cen­tia re­gion’s eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity and has a host of the pro­vin­cial movers and shak­ers on its some 9,000 acres of land.

The lat­est to come on board in a busi­ness de­vel­op­ment agree­ment with the AMA is Cana­dian data com­pany Tes­lag­is­tics Inc. It has a 15-year lease agree­ment with the AMA that will mod­ify fa­cil­i­ties on the for­mer McAn­drew Air Force Base and turn them into data cen­tres.

“It doesn’t mean they’ll go out and start hir­ing,” said gen­eral man­ager Chris Ne­whook. “That means now they have the ar­range­ment with us and now they can go out and se­cure the fi­bre lines and se­cure con­tracts with po­ten­tial clients. They’re in con­tact with us reg­u­larly and they’re mak­ing great head­way.”

It is a move that has of­fi­cials with the AMA brim­ming with ex­cite­ment.

“We’re very con­fi­dent in the group that we’re work­ing with,” said Ne­whook.

“This is a re­ally good fit for us,” added CEO Har­vey Bren­ton. “This is cer­tainly the top tech­nol­ogy and what we like to see.”

The Tes­lag­is­tics deal brings with it the op­por­tu­nity to push Ar­gen­tia ahead of the game when it comes to tech­nol­ogy. The plan is to con­vert bunkers which have stood for decades into data cen­tres ca­pa­ble of stor­ing large quan­ti­ties of elec­tronic files and in­for­ma­tion.

The AMA, which has been in busi­ness since 1995, con­trols a mas­sive site at Ar­gen­tia. The base has a pair of in­dus­trial parks on its north and south sides that are com­prised of some 3,000 acres of de­vel­oped land. The rest of the grounds are a labyrinth of bunkers, roads and trails that of­fer a lit­tle bit for ev­ery­thing. Vale and Huskey En­ergy op­er­a­tions in Ar­gen­tia are just post stamps when one takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the size of the area.

Much of the south side is de­vel­oped with com­pa­nies hold­ing up in a num­ber of build­ings that date back to the days when the site was op­er­a­tional as a mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment.

How­ever the north side, with its po­ten­tial for docks and ex­pan­sive air­plane run­ways, is next on the AMA’s list for fur­ther de­vel­op­ment.

“We’re try­ing to de­velop a master plan for the whole north side (of the base),” Ne­whook ex­plained. “We’re hop­ing to op­ti­mize its use and do it in an or­derly fash­ion.”

“It’s just like any town has a master plan with how they zone land,” added Bren­ton.

Strate­gic plan de­vel­op­ment

Busi­ness re­ally be­gan to pick up for the AMA and the Port of Ar­gen­tia when the group set to de­vel­op­ing a strate­gic plan four years ago.

“In the last four years, we’ve put a lot of work into a strate­gic plan and our ap­proach to work­ing with busi­ness to de­velop things,” said Ne­whook. “We’ve signed a num­ber of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment agree­ments and leases with well­run, well-known com­pa­nies in New­found­land and Labrador, who all see the value of Ar­gen­tia and want to be here.”

The list of com­pa­nies is a whos-who of big busi­ness play­ers in this prov­ince. Names like Husky En­ergy, Tech­nip, Nal­cor, Suncor, Vale, Pen­necon and A. Har­vey & Co. are all names on their ros­ter of ten­ants.

“They’ve all seen the value in fo­cus­ing on and hav­ing a pres­ence in Ar­gen­tia,” said Ne­whook. “It speaks well for the site and the work that we’ve done.”

The brand

Even though it may be well­known amongst busi­ness lead­ers in this prov­ince, the term AMA does not come with­out its share of ques­tions when rep­re­sen­ta­tives travel abroad to trade shows and the like.

Po­ten­tial new clients of­ten ask what the AMA is, where it is lo­cated and what work they do. To that end, the group put an em­pha­sis on re-brand­ing the area as the Port of Ar­gen­tia.

The op­er­a­tor wouldn’t change, that would still be run by the AMA, but of­fi­cials would present them­selves as rep­ping the Port of Ar­gen­tia.

“The AMA can mean many things,” said mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Ray Greene. “We felt the Port of Ar­gen­tia will give us that quicker con­nect.”

“The port is where the fo­cus should be,” added Bren­ton.

A con­nected busi­ness

Tak­ing a tour around the ex­pan­sive fa­cil­ity, you’ll no­tice a host of part­ner­ships be­tween var­i­ous com­mu­nity groups and the AMA.

There is the plot of land ded­i­cated to the Col­lege of the North At­lantic’s heavy equipement pro­gram, which is a con­stant hive of ac­tiv­ity when school is in ses­sion at nearby Pla­cen­tia.

Feet from the CNA plot is the Ar­gen­tia Sun­shine RV Park, which is ran by the Pla­cen­tia Area De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

Those part­ner­ships crop up in a lot of dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the base. Even a por­tion of the AMA’s of­fice build­ing, which is an old re­cre­ation cen­tre, is used by the Pla­cen­tia Box­ing Club.

“We con­tinue to de­velop our part­ner­ships and our re­la­tion­ships,” said Bren­ton.

There is one as­pect of the base that of­fi­cials would like to see start up again and that is the White Rose Ex­ten­sion project. Work was com­pleted on a grav­ing dock in March, which could be used for the con­struc­tion of a well­head plat­form.

How­ever, low oil prices threaten the project. De­spite that, AMA of­fi­cials are op­ti­mistic it will get back up and run­ning while they sort out the rest of their plan.

“If Husky were not de­layed, we’d be fully in­volved in that project and all those who are try­ing to serve that project this year,” said Ne­whook. “The beauty about this de­lay, in one re­spect, is that it gives us time to plan.”

The Ar­gen­tia Man­age­ment Author­ity views its port as a mas­sive de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity.

PHO­TOS BY NICHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

Ar­gen­tia Man­age­ment Author­ity CEO Har­vey Bren­ton (left), gen­eral man­ager Chris Ne­whook (mid­dle) and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Ray Greene are op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of the for­mer McAn­drew Air Force Base and what is hap­pen­ing in Ar­gen­tia.

PHOTO BY NICHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

Bunkers like this one could play a key role in Tes­lag­is­tics’ plan to de­velop data cen­tres on the for­mer base.

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