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2015 News

$45M expansion planned at Lambton College2015-01-28

By Melanie Irwin, from   Blackburn News

Lambton College wants to build two new facilities on campus within the next two years.

College President and CEO Judith Morris updated community members on their strategic plan at a breakfast event at the College Event Centre this morning.

Morris says they’ve been working with the Student Union and have secured funding for a new Recreation and Fitness Complex.

She says they’re just awaiting the outcome of a $20-million senior government funding proposal for a new Centre for Health Education and Sustainable Care.

Morris anticipates an answer this March or April.

She says the new buildings will help keep students in Lambton County.

It’s proposed both facilities be built adjacent to the college’s current gymnasium.

The cost of the two projects would total about $45-million.

Great Lakes and Seaway seeing major investments2015-01-21
By Paul Morden, from    The Observer

Electrical service improvements launched in 2014 are set to continue at Sarnia Harbour.

"This year we plan on spending a quarter million dollars on electrical facilities in the North Slip," said Peter Hungerford, Sarnia's director of economic development and corporate planning.

That follows approximately $400,000 the city spent on capital, and related, projects after taking over ownership of the port from the federal government in March 2014.

At the time, the city received $8.5 million from Ottawa to aid in operation of the harbour.

The work in Sarnia comes as a Chamber of Marine Commerce says a study found more than $4.8 billion was spent on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence shipping system from 2009 to 2013, with another $2.3 billion committed through to 2018.

That includes money spent on new ships, modernized Seaway locks, and improvements to docks and equipment.

Hungerford said Sarnia has already renewed electrical facilities on Seaway Road, as well as upgrading street and security lighting there, and at the Government Dock.

An asbestos survey of harbour buildings has also been undertaken, "and there's some minor remediation planned for this year," Hungerford said.

An electrical service upgrading program for the port is scheduled to be completed in 2016, he said.

"Over a period of 2014, 2015 and 2016, we will have spent just shy of $1 million on our electrical infrastructure at the harbour," Hungerford said.

"That will ensure vessels coming in that they have a secure supply of hydro."

City officials were aware the improvements were needed when Sarnia took over the harbour, he said.

"The facility is in pretty good shape already, but we knew that some of the transformers were older than others."

The harbour resells electricity to the ships that use the facility, providing the city operation with another source of revenue, Hungerford said.

Depending on the number of ships using the port, the city can earn $60,000 to $75,000 annually from electricity sales, he said.

Work planned this year also includes preparing for a dredging program in 2016.

"There will be various studies that will have to be undertaken and permits have to be applied for, with supporting information," Hungerford said.

Because of the port's location, silt carried in the river is deposited at the mouth of the harbour.

"We expect every five years or so, that we'll have to do what we call maintenance dredging to ensure that we can maintain seaway depth for the ships that come in," he said.

The federal money is also being used to offset daily operation costs at the port, Hungerford said.

Currently, there are two ships in the North Slip and four or five are expected to eventually winter there, he said.

Another ship is already at the Government Dock, where another two are expected.

A ship that had been at the Sidney Smith Wharf left to deliver a shipment of cargo, but it is expected back for the winter, along with a possible second ship.

There is also a ship at Mission Park.

Ice conditions have made travel on the St. Clair River a challenge in recent days, but the harbour is expecting between nine and 11 vessels over the winter, Hungerford said.

"I believe Cargill is hoping to take a ship or two this winter, as well," he added. The Cargill dock is privately owned.

Ships that winter in the city often receive repairs, creating jobs for local companies and workers.

"Everyone's trying to deliver their last load and get to a safe port for the winter," Hungerford said.

"I believe we will have a fair number of ships here."

Entrepreneurship at Lambton College gets a boost2015-01-21
By Tyler Kula, f rom The Observer

Reza Moridi, Ontario's minister of research and innovation, announced close to $200,000 Wednesday to fund entrepreneurship at Lambton College.
The investment, through the province's On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) program, the ministry said, will be used to fund the college's Cube, an entrepreneurship hub that helps entrepreneurs develop their business ideas and acumen.
The OCEA program, the ministry said, is part of a provincial Youth Jobs Strategy being implemented at universities and colleges across Ontario.
There are 30 similar programs at post-secondary schools across the province, said Dr. Tom Corr, president and CEO of the Ontario Centres of Excellence that is overseeing the programs.
All but two of Ontario's 44 post-secondary institutions have on-campus entrepreneurship programs, the ministry said.
“Helping young entrepreneurs is another example of Ontario's Youth Jobs Strategy at work in Sarnia and across the province,” said Moridi, also minister of training, colleges and universities, in a news release.
“These programs will help harness their ideas, their vision and their enthusiasm and turn them into jobs for today and tomorrow.”

Lambton College and SLEP holding inaugural Sarnia-Lambton Water Symposium2015-01-20
Interest in water technology could be on the rise in Sarnia-Lambton, and the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership is rolling out the welcome mat.

The agency dedicated to boosting the area's economic fortunes has been targeting water and wastewater start-ups since 2010 when the provincial government said Ontario could be a world-class leader in the sector, said Mike Ireland, senior development consultant at SLEP.

“We have a lot of existing companies here that have a lot of expertise in wastewater treatment and management practices,” he said.

“We're trying to work with them to develop the sector.”

To that end, the agency has partnered with Lambton College for its inaugural Sarnia-Lambton Water Symposium on March 26.

Hopes are to forge connections there with other municipalities outside of Sarnia-Lambton to increase the area's profile and to create opportunities, he said.

It's also an opportunity to show off the Lambton Water Centre, said Mehdi Sheikhzadeh, dean of applied research and innovation at Lambton College.

Started in 2013 with $2.3 million from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the centre has labs at the college and Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park where it's collaborating with companies, municipalities and different organizations to develop a half dozen water and wastewater-related projects, he said.

Among them, the college is working on automating and optimizing a membrane-based technology for wastewater treatment by KmX Membrane Technologies Corp., he said. The Oakville-based company has a pilot plant in Sarnia.

The technology could potentially be used in the oil and gas sector, Sheikhzadeh said.

Meanwhile, the centre is also working on a flow monitoring project with the City of Sarnia, he said, to remotely monitor water plants.

“We do have a strong capacity here to do projects in the water and wastewater sector,” he said, adding Lambton College's applied research proficiency can help start-ups that don't necessarily have the know-how to refine and commercialize on their own.

“Our hope is to fill that gap,” he said.

Funding for the water centre lasts to 2018, he said, noting the college hopes to get new funding to continue it past that point.

Hopes are also to develop water and wastewater-related training courses for operators and engineers, he said.

“That's something that we are developing right now. We are working on a couple of different courses.”

Meanwhile, the invite-only Sarnia-Lambton Water Symposium at the Lambton College Event Centre is scheduled to include presentations on water technologies, and tours of the water centre labs, Sheikhzadeh said, noting the guest list stands at about 200.

Hopes are to make it an annual event, he said.

New regional transportation plan to be released in Sarnia2015-01-13
By Barbara Simpson, from  London Free Press

Southwestern Ontario communities who have largely been crippled by cuts to passenger rail service may finally receive just the ticket to improve their joint transit system.

Transportation consultant Greg Gormick is expected to unveil Network Southwest – a four-year plan billed as a practical and affordable solution to improving transit in the region – later this month.

Rail advocacy leaders, Southwestern Ontario mayors, federal and provincial politicians, and Via Rail representatives have been invited to attend Gormick's public presentation Jan. 31 at the Sarnia library theatre from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Gormick is developing the plan on behalf of the Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance (SWOTA), a network of rail advocacy groups spread out across the region.

Details of the Network Southwest plan are still in the works, but SWOTA president Terry Johnson said the four-year plan will focus on utilizing the region's existing infrastructure – rail lines and bus routes – to make them work as part of a cohesive regional transit system.

“We're really talking about things that can be developed in this term of office of the current government, so no mass procurements, no big splashy spending but practical, on-the-ground results that will improve quality of life and economic opportunities here,” he said Tuesday.

Several Southwestern Ontario communities have been hit hard by cuts to Via Rail passenger service over the last few years, sparking the creation of a slew of rail advocacy groups and ongoing discussions among mayors.

“There isn't a mayor along the route from (Sarnia) to Toronto... that isn't supporting an improved train service for sure,” said Jim Houston, president of Rail Advocacy in Lambton.

But some rail advocates and mayors suggest the difficulty lies in getting buy-in from senior levels of government, as well as railway operators, to improve passenger service.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley described getting all the stakeholders on the same page as a “recipe for gridlock.”

“The province points to Via and the federal government. The federal government points to the province's role. The province points to high-speed rail as their direction, yet they're increasing Go [Transit] service in leaps and bounds throughout the GTA region.”

At this time, Bradley said Sarnia is still in need of a second set of Via trains – one into and one out of the community.

Via Rail cancelled Sarnia's second train in the fall of 2012, pointing to declining ridership for the decision.

“It's extremely frustrating because we're the only western nation that doesn't seem to understand that rail is the way of the future as it relates to the movement of a large number of people in an environmental and cost effective way,” Bradley added.

Some rail advocates, however, argue the timing couldn't be better to see a plan of improved rail service come into fruition with a federal election just around the corner.

The Ontario government also recently announced a $29-billion, 10-year plan for transportation projects, including the long-awaited high-speed rail service set to connect Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.

“We thought the time was right [to release the Network Southwest plan] because we've got the high-speed rail plan moving forward in Ontario,” said Mabel Higgins, vice-president of Rail Advocacy in Lambton.

When asked if it is feasible to get all the stakeholders to work together for the Network Southwest plan, Johnson said all levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal – have a stake in improving the region's transit system.

“At the end of the day, all of those dollars come from the same source and the better we can persuade them to work together, the more bang we'll get for our buck and that's what this is about.”


“It's a recipe for gridlock. The province points to Via and the federal government. The federal government points to the province's role. The province points to high-speed rail as their direction, yet they're increasing Go [Transit] service in leaps and bounds throughout the GTA region.”

– Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley on the difficulty of all the stakeholders involved in improving regional transportation

“There isn't a mayor along the route from (Sarnia) to Toronto...that isn't supporting an improved train service for sure.”

– Jim Houston, president of Rail Advocacy in Lambton

“At the end of the day, all of those dollars come from the same source and the better we can persuade [governments] to work together, the more bang we'll get for our buck and that's what this is about.”

– Terry Johnson, president of Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance

Sarnia brewery makes a splash2015-01-09
Sarnia's Refined Fool Brewing Co. received national attention Monday on the Marilyn Denis Show.

Matt Barnes and Nathan Colquhoun, two of the owners of the recently launch craft brewery on Davis Street, were in Toronto

for the TV talk show where Refined Fool was included in a men's gift guide segment.

"She's pretty much like the Canadian Oprah," Barnes said.

"It's pretty big for us."

As part of the show, the pair brought 75 Refined Fool gift baskets to Toronto with them for members of the audience.

"We hired our mothers to put them together," Barnes said.

He and Colquhoun were also able to take a tour of the studio and watch the show being shot before handing out the baskets to the audience members.

Other gifts in the segment included a portable espresso machine, a stud finder, a facial trimmer, coffee beans and a Carnivore Club gift box.

The Sarnia pair had to be at the Toronto studio where the CTV show is shot by 8 a.m. Monday, so they rented a van, packed it with gift baskets and drove down Sunday.

"We had to keep it a secret," Barnes said.

"Even the audience didn't know when they got there that it was going to be a surprise giveaway show."

The Sarnia craft brewery was contacted by staff with the show a few months ago.

"One of the girls who works at the Marilyn Show was a friend of one of the owners here," Barnes said.

"And, they liked our style and logo, and our branding."

Refined Fool opened in May with 10 initial investors and has been growing quickly.

"It has been nuts," Barnes said.

Originally open one day a week, the Davis Street brewery is now open seven days a week, with six people on staff working through a current round of renovations needed because of the growth.

"It's beyond expectations," Barnes said.

The partners started out in the spring with a set of five-year goals.

"We've met those already," Barnes added.

"We thought we were crazy when we started," Colquhoun said.

"We didn't know how much desire there would be for craft beer. But the second we opened, our craziness was kind of put aside and we realized we were on to something."

Refined Fool came along as the craft beer industry was taking off, and the Sarnia operation has gained from being located right next to Michigan, a state "leading the way, a little bit," Barnes said.

"We're taking notes and hints from them."

One of the owners has taken on the job of looking after sales to restaurants and bars.

"I think most bars want us in Sarnia, which is nice, but we're having a hard time keeping up with demand," Barnes said.

But, he added, having such strong demand for their product, "is the best problem to have."

The baskets made for the TV show included bottles of Refined Fool's Joe Sent Me milk stout, Noble Oaf rye saison, and The Brouhaha nut brown. There was also a pair of Refined Fool pint glasses and some of the company's Fool's Gold store gift tokens.

Barnes said the company also sells gift baskets similar to those prepared for the show.

The brewery's Noble Oaf brand is expected to on sale starting in the spring in LCBO locations in Sarnia and nearby communities, such as London and Windsor, Barnes said.

The brewery has six regular brands it works to keep in stock, as well as seasonal varieties.

The Refined Fool gift basket, and a link to the craft brewery's own website, was also listed on the television show's website.

Barnes said they began receiving e-mails as soon as the segment aired.

Former UBE plant sold2015-01-07
By Tyler Kula, from     The Observer

New manufacturing jobs could be on the way as the vacant, former UBE plant has sold to a mystery group of local investors, Sarnia's mayor says.

“This is great news for us,” said Mike Bradley, as he revealed the news at his annual state of the city address to about 50 Golden K Kiwanis club members Tuesday.

The plant, closed by Japanese-based wheel manufacturer UBE in 2009, boasts about 350,000 square feet of plant space sitting on about 72 acres near the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport, said Kenn Poore, the real estate agent involved in listing and selling the property.

About five years ago, Sarnia Wheels Inc. bought the property from UBE and tried to make a go of manufacturing wheels but couldn't land a large enough contract, Poore said.

All of the manufacturing assets were auctioned off in 2013, he said, and the empty building and property were recently listed at $7.25 million.

Poore opted not to reveal what the property sold for.

“It's unfortunate that Sarnia Wheels was unable to make a go of it; however, since they were unable, I think that it's in its best hands now,” he said, adding, “I'm excited for Sarnia.”

Both Bradley and Poore said the new property owners aren't ready yet to reveal their identities or intentions.

But “they have no intention of making wheels,” Poore said, noting they represent a company.

“The purchasers are well-respected, credible businesspeople in the community,” Bradley said, noting he had their permission to reveal news the property had sold.

The deal formally closed Dec. 30, Poore said.

Bradley lauded the building's size and high ceilings, as well as its location directly north of Highway 402 and near the Blue Water Bridge crossing, as an opportunity for manufacturing, storage or a combination.

“Obviously manufacturing would be the preference for them and for us,” he said, noting the plant site is one of few properties in the community available to investors seeking more than 10,000 square feet.

“We think it's very marketable and we're going to set up meetings for the investors,” Bradley said.

It's unclear when more information about the investors and their plans will be available, he said.

UBE spent about $110 million launching the plant in 2002 and expanding in 2005. At its height, it employed about 255 people.

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