Argentia looks to the future
Local management authority has big plans for port
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.”
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.
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.
Bunkers like this one could play a key role in Teslagistics’ plan to develop data centres on the former base.