There's no sign yet of a much-anticipated container terminal for Sydney, N.S., but the sod was turned Wednesday on a logistics park that would support such a development.
The huge tract of undeveloped land is a few kilometres outside Sydney, about halfway between the site of the proposed container terminal and a bypass that leads to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Mi'kmaq drummers greeted about 100 politicians and businesspeople as they arrived for the announcement, which was delivered from a stage erected specially for the event.
Novazone logistics park
One hundred hectares of the proposed 500-hectare site are owned by the Mi'kmaq.
"As we stand upon this ground, territory of our Mi'kmaq peoples, I'm happy to announce that we are on the future site of Novazone, a new logistics park," Membertou chief Terry Paul told the crowd.
A logistics park is an industrial site where goods can be stored or manufactured.
Paul said the Mi'kmaq will work with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the federal and provincial governments to help develop the site. Work to connect roads, power, water and sewers is expected to begin later this fall.
CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke said the park is an essential asset as the Port of Sydney works to develop a container terminal.
"The shippers want to know that the capacity is there to back up their decisions to move cargo through the port of Sydney, so it's actually complementary to both processes."
A large Canadian property management and development company, Canderel, is also involved in Novazone, trying to attract potential tenants.
Canderel CEO Jonathan Wener, who is also a partner in the Sydney marine terminal project, Novaporte, was in Cape Breton for the announcement.
'We're getting very close'
Wener said he wouldn't be involved if he didn't think both projects showed promise.
"We're getting very close," said Wener. "What we're doing now is collecting tonnage across the world to be dedicated to Sydney. We're probably sixty per cent of the way there. With a few more commitments, Phase 1 is off and running."
Wener said the logistics park will also be a free-trade zone, meaning companies can ship goods into Sydney without tax, assemble them and ship them on to their final location.