Connors Bros. invests $12M in sardine plant
Connors Bros. is investing $12 million into the last sardine processing operation left in North America in a move that will save roughly 1,000 jobs but abandon its traditional canning methods.
Connors Bros. has been operating in the small coastal village of Blacks Harbour for about 120 years, employing 1,000 people. Some of the processing is still being done in the traditional way, with workers using scissors to cut the fish by hand.
However, the company is rolling out a $12-million modernization scheme to bring that process to an end. The technological advancement is expected to both save time and repetitive stress injuries among the workers.
The New Brunswick government is pumping $3 million in the form of a forgivable loan. Under the terms of the deal, if Connors Bros. maintains its 1,000 jobs, the company won't have to pay it back.
Ron Schindler, the company's executive vice president, said without that provincial money, they would have to look overseas for cheaper ways to process their product.
"Like any business today we're struggling with global economies and competitive position of our business," Schindler said.
"Our business is subject to global trade and we compete with Morocco, Thailand, Peru, Namibia, and several other countries around the world where labour costs are exceptionally low."
Some of the new machinery is already up and running, but the company estimates it will take about three years to complete all the upgrades.
Connors Bros. is one of Canada's oldest food producers and a major worldwide producer of canned sardines. The New Brunswick company merged with Bumble Bee Seafoods LLC and Clover Leaf Seafoods Co. in 2004.