Putting a biomass research centre at the old mill in Sault Ste. Marie may still be an idea — but it’s one that’s growing interest.
St. Mary's Paper died a slow painful death over the last few years, with hundreds of jobs eventually leaving the Sault.
Developer Willem Galle bought the old mill with the hope of wiping away some of those bad memories "and at least try to use this space to be part of Sault Ste. Marie's future," he said.
The owner of Woodstock-based River's Edge Developments said he hopes to build what some people in the community call a "smart energy park and biotechnology research centre."
A local business incubator, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, is pushing for the old St. Mary's to become a biomass research hub.
Centre spokesperson Jason Naccarato said the Canadian government need to follow Europe's example, by subsidizing wood energy and taxing fossil fuels.
"It's not a technical challenge to do it," he said. "It's purely, purely an economic challenge."
Making a business case around biomass energy — using wood to generate electricity — has proven to be challenging in the past, however.
Biomass was considered the quick-fix solution just a few years ago when the northern Ontario forest industry was collapsing, with every former mill town from Opasatika to Blind River pushing biomass schemes.
But nothing came of it.
Now, as Galle speaks with industry stakeholders, he said he's ruling nothing out. What exactly will become of the old St. Mary's Paper Mill has yet to be determined.
"We are having continuing dialogue," he said, about a place "where entrepreurialism can grow."