The chair of the government agency spearheading a new business plan for the former Bowater-Mersey paper mill in Nova Scotia's Queens County is warning not to expect immediate results.
In December, the provincial government spent more than $115 million to acquire a large tract of private forest land that belonged to Resolute Forest Products Ltd. after the company closed the paper mill near Liverpool and threw about 320 people out of work.
That purchase gave the province control of 220,000 hectares of woodlands in Nova Scotia's southwestern region, along with a power generation plant, a factory site and the wood fibre inventory of the defunct paper mill.
Innovacorp, a government agency that funds and supports business ideas in their early stages, received $500,000 to develop a plan to turn the former Bowater-Mersey mill into a demonstration centre for companies scaling up energy or new forest products.
Although the mill now has a new name — the Innovacorp Demonstration Centre for Bioresources and the Bioeconomy — and has a plan to rent to companies testing proven technologies on a large scale, Innovacorp cautioned people should not expect quick results.
"These are not the kinds of things that will come to us overnight because they are now on a bigger scale," said Jacquelyn Thayer Scott, the chair of Innovacorp.
She added the centre is not yet up and running.
"It's been in progress. The renovations start very shortly," she said.
The province won't provide an estimate for the renovations.
The centre's first and only confirmed tenant — CelluFuel Inc. — plans to move in this fall.
Chris Hooper, the president of CelluFuel Inc., said seven people will be hired with the potential for dozens more if his company's plan works well enough to merit building its own plant.
"Effectively, wood goes in and petroleum-like diesel comes out," said Hooper.
"It's at a commercial demonstration scale producing about 1.3 million litres per year."
Thayer Scott said the Innovacorp Demonstration Centre for Bioresources and the Bioeconomy is one of only two or three industrial-level demonstration and piloting facilities in North America.
"We are the only one between here and Georgia," she told CBC News.
"We will be looking to put complementary firms on that site where we can, because in an ideal situation you'd love to have one client who uses some part of the supply chain and their waste product becomes the supply for another."
Thayer Scott said Emera Energy continues to be interested in the site, although its first project fell though because its partner needed firm access to natural gas. She said the centre has also received interest from researchers in Maine and Ontario.