The South Cariboo is slated to become home to a 32-acre manufacturing industrial park.
Omnitek, a Port Moody-based building company, plans to turn the site, at 7080 Watch Lake Rd. near Lone Butte, into Cariboo Industrial Park. The company proposes to use 14 acres of its industrial land to create new “innovative” building products, such as replacement drywall using locally sourced wood, while offering one-acre parcels to other entrepreneurs wanting to process other South Cariboo resources before shipping them to market.
The site is sandwiched between a CN freight line and rural properties located 12 kilometres from Highway 97. CN said the freight line remains active but is currently suspended north of Exeter. The site was previously used as a lumber mill, for Pacific log home-building and most recently by Trinity Post & Panel.
“Anytime we can get new industry coming into areas already zoned industrial and making use of those sites is great news for us,” said Margo Wagner, chair of the Cariboo Regional District. She noted the CRD has very few industrial properties that can be used for taxation, with the exception of those on Exeter Road in 100 Mile House. “It helps the whole area when something like that comes in.”
Gaetan Royer, who sits on the Omnitek board, said Omnitek decided to set up shop in the South Cariboo because of a lack of industrial properties in Metro Vancouver, which is experiencing a squeeze on manufacturing opportunities in the Lower Mainland.
According to the Metro Vancouver 2020 Regional Industrial Lands Inventory, the overall industrial vacancy rate in Metro Vancouver, is 0.9 per cent.
Royer noted Canada’s first industries were in company towns settled in remote regions, close to mining, energy and timber resources, but had shifted over the past few decades.
Now, manufacturing is relocating to places with a skilled workforce and where a family-oriented lifestyle is more affordable.
Omnitek plans to start building his plant on site in the next few months and will hire about 40 knowledge-based workers, Royer said.
Over time, he expects there will be spinoffs for the local communities – from Clinton to 100 Mile House – and across the region through the supplies and service sectors.
Royer added there has already been some interest from other entrepreneurs although he is unable to disclose who they are at this time.
“We hope to attract others to come join us. There are a lot of resourceful people in the Cariboo,” Royer said. “I want to make sure people understand we’re not just there to extract resources, we want to add value.”
Willow McDonald, CRD director for Electoral Area L (Interlakes), said the development will be a boon for the area, which has seen an influx of retirees from the Lower Mainland.
McDonald envisions the project revitalizing the area, similar to Ashcroft Terminal’s inland port.
“We need industry, we need good working families to live here,” she said. “I can’t tell you how much this is a great thing for this area. We want to grow as a community that has a future.”
Clinton Mayor Susan Swan said she hadn’t heard about Omnitek’s plans but said she hopes it means more jobs to the area, which continues to draw people from the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan.
“Fingers crossed,” she said.