On­tario turkey firm to spend $8.1M on new city plant

Tax re­bates eyed for $8.1M re­vamp to bring 50 jobs to in­dus­trial area

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN CROSS bcross@postmedia.com

An On­tario turkey pro­ducer with Es­sex County roots has am­bi­tious plans for a cen­tury-old in­dus­trial prop­erty in Wind­sor’s core — build­ing an $8.1-mil­lion pack­ag­ing plant and hir­ing 50 peo­ple.

The 4.5-acre site in the 1500 block of Mercer Street, be­tween Howard Av­enue and McDougall Street, is cur­rently the home of a three-storey, 52,000-square-foot build­ing that’s served as a mas­sive freezer for 100 years, ini­tially for stor­ing ice, then as a curl­ing club, and for the last 30 years as a ware­house, ac­cord­ing to Tyler Sch­legel of Bel­wood Poul­try. His fam­ily firm, which bought the Wind­sor Freezer Ser­vices prop­erty in 2016, plans to make im­prove­ments to the old build­ing and keep it for stor­age, plus build a new 30,000-square­foot pack­ag­ing op­er­a­tion.

On Mon­day, his com­pany’s ap­pli­ca­tion for in­cen­tives from the City of Wind­sor’s Busi­ness Re­ten­tion and Expansion Grant Pro­gram goes to coun­cil’s plan­ning, her­itage and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment stand­ing com­mit­tee. Un­der the plan, the firm would re­ceive a re­bate ev­ery year for 10 years equal to the dif­fer­ence be­tween the mu­nic­i­pal taxes paid now ($5,905) and what they would be once the new build­ing is con­structed ($88,047). The to­tal grants would add up to $821,419.

“It’s huge,” Sch­legel said of the in­cen­tive pro­gram. “It’s a great pro­gram and it re­ally makes Wind­sor a lot more at­trac­tive to op­er­ate there. It’s pretty sub­stan­tial.”

In a No­vem­ber doc­u­ment pro­vided to the city, Bel­wood says that in­vest­ing in the new pack­ag­ing fa­cil­ity at the Wind­sor Freezer site is its pre­ferred op­tion. The other op­tions are to do noth­ing and aban­don the ex­port mar­ket due to lack of ca­pac­ity; con­tract out the work to other firms, which would be a money-loser; lo­cate a new pack­ag­ing plant near its Amher­st­burg pro­cess­ing plant; and lo­cate it in Water­loo Re­gion near the com­pany’s Kitch­ener cor­po­rate of­fice.

The city’s in­cen­tive plan “would make the op­tion to lo­cate the new fa­cil­ity in Wind­sor the most at­trac­tive location op­tion for the com­pany,” the com­pany said.

“Bel­wood could stay at its cur­rent size and not risk cap­i­tal and not in­vest in growth. How­ever, with your sup­port the com­pany will have the abil­ity to in­vest and ex­pand, creating jobs in Wind­sor for the long term.”

Bel­wood’s main fa­cil­ity in Amher­st­burg pro­cesses 10,000 birds a day, three days per week dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods like now. But cus­tomers tend to buy whole tur­keys only dur­ing the Christ­mas and Thanks­giv­ing pe­ri­ods, said Sch­legel, whose tur­keys are raised on fam­ily farms in the Wing­ham area.

“It’s our opin­ion that turkey is a fairly un­der-rep­re­sented pro­tein on store shelves,” he said.

Bel­wood would like to ex­pand and in­crease pro­duc­tion dur­ing slow pe­ri­ods by mov­ing into pack­aged prod­ucts like turkey breasts, wings and drum­sticks, he said, and ex­pand into the U.S. mar­ket.

It doesn’t have the ca­pac­ity to do that now. By adding the op­er­a­tion in Wind­sor, where whole tur­keys would be pack­aged into tray packs and other re­tail prod­ucts, Bel­wood hopes to dou­ble the dol­lar value of its pro­duc­tion, said Sch­legel.

He said the Wind­sor op­er­a­tion would be very clean, with no odours and with waste prod­uct shipped out in re­frig­er­ated trac­tor-trail­ers. In fact, ev­ery­thing go­ing in and go­ing out would be by re­frig­er­ated trailer. The prod­uct ar­riv­ing would be whole tur­keys al­ready slaugh­tered and pro­cessed in Amher­st­burg and ready to be cut up and pack­aged, he said.

He es­ti­mated pay for hourly staff will be $15 to $17 an hour.

Coun. Rino Bor­tolin, who rep­re­sents the core area and grew up nearby on Mar­entette Av­enue, said he doesn’t be­lieve res­i­dents will be op­posed to such an op­er­a­tion — as long as it’s not noisy or dis­rup­tive — be­cause they’re used to liv­ing with in­dus­try. The cor­ri­dor be­tween Howard and McDougall has al­ways been in­dus­trial, though many of the plants and prop­er­ties are now empty, he said.

“And it’s not a bad thing to fill them back up again.”

He re­called his fam­ily moved to Mar­entette so his dad could walk to the nearby Kelsey Hayes plant. Hav­ing places of em­ploy­ment so close to home makes for a walk­a­ble neigh­bour­hood, he said.

“So see­ing ac­tiv­ity in there, and 50 more jobs, that’s awe­some.”

DAN JANISSE

The for­mer Wind­sor Freezer Ser­vices Ltd. build­ing at Mercer and Shep­herd streets may be ren­o­vated for a turkey-pro­cess­ing busi­ness.

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