Opportunities opening up at old mill site

Sign at the old mill site in Pine Falls.

By Don Norman

People passing by the old mill site in Pine Falls may have noticed the Avida Development signs on the property with the curiosity-inspiring words “Pine Falls Tech Park Coming Soon.”

Peter Tines, President of Avida Developments Inc. (www.AvidaDevelopments.com), of Winnipeg, confirmed that in April 2018, several Avida-related companies purchased the approximately 1,200 acre former Tembec paper mill lands that are located in and around Powerview-Pine Falls.

The properties include: the 165 acres former paper mill site in Powerview-Pine Falls along the Winnipeg River; over 90 acres of additional industrial lands fronting on Highway 11; and about 800 acres of land in the Rural Municipality of Alexander.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of Pine Falls, the community was created as a paper mill town in the mid 1920s as Manitoba Pulp and Paper Company. The company was sold to Abitibi Paper Company, became Pine Falls Paper Group in 1995 after an employee buyout and was finally sold to Tembec in 1998. In 2009, after the start of a labour strike, Tembec shutdown the mill for good and the site was demolished by Toronto based National Recycling Incorporated (NRI) in 2012.  The Avida group bought the properties from an NRI owned company called Pine Falls Development Corporation.

Avida’s realtor and property manager, Georges Bohemier, introduced the site to Tines. Bohemier is the owner/broker of Century21Carrie.com and Mainland Commerce Real Estate and has been managing and leasing properties in Pine Falls for over 12 years. He is optimistic about the future of the development.  “The Loss of the paper mill has been devastating,” he said.  “It generated something like $80 million dollars a year for the local economy. Since jobs are gone and many have moved away, there is a big void.  With Avida stepping-up and taking the risk on the land, I see light at the end of the tunnel.”

However, good things don’t happen in a vacuum. There has to be a buy-in at the community and local government levels. “Motivated, pro active leaders in  Powerview-Pine Falls, Sagkeeng First Nation and the RM of Alexander councils, can make a big  contribution to rebuilding the area by working together with Avida,” said Bohemier. “We need to find ways to attract, welcome and support new industries and job creation ventures to locate on the former Tembec paper mill site because that is in everyone’s best interest,” he continued. “The time has come to turn things around.”

Tines says his company became interested in the possibilities that the mill site offered back in 2017.  “We became interested in the potential to buy the properties and redevelop them in ways that can help bring new life to the community,” he said. “We think that there is tremendous potential for these former paper mill lands.”

Sometimes as locals it’s easy for us to lose perspective of the attractiveness of this area to business and industry investors. But from Tines’ perspective the area has much to offer:

  • Large secure sites with historic access to industrial scale power and big water for processing and/or cooling;
  • Data center and crypto miner potential businesses, that benefit from a cold climate and one of the lowest electricity rates in North America;
  • Skilled local workforce in the area, with a great work ethic;
  • Full service community, multi-lingual schools and hospital;
  • Commercial, multi family, single family and retirement residence amenities;
  • Prime waterfront for recreation, in “Walleye Fishing Capital of Manitoba”, along the spectacular Winnipeg River, with direct access to Lake Winnipeg.

Tines says Avida is assessing the feasibility of establishing certain technology and other businesses on the lands, offering sites to others as part of the planned “Pine Falls Tech Park” (which we will explore more in future articles). He hopes at some point to look into developing other commercial, residential and recreational uses on parts of the lands and he says that he’s open to hearing ideas from the community.

So, if you have any business or property development ideas, you can reach George Bohemier for any leasing/sales inquiries at Mainland Commerce Real Estate (204) 480-0145 or Century21Carrie.com.