Nova Scotia·Q&A

Businessman Jim Wooder on his newfound support of Sydney port strategy

Well-known Sydney, N.S., businessman Jim Wooder has had a change of heart about the exclusivity agreement made between the municipality and Sydney Harbour Investment Partners to market the port.

Wooder has been a passionate champion of a commercial port for more than a decade

Jim Wooder, a partner in Sydport Terminals Ltd., has been involved in port development in Sydney, N.S., since 2005. (Hal Higgins/CBC)

Well-known Sydney, N.S., businessman Jim Wooder has had a change of heart about the exclusivity agreement made between the municipality and Sydney Harbour Investment Partners (SHIP) to market the port.

He and his partners Marty Chernin and Brian Shebib were part of a competing firm, Sydport Terminals Ltd., that had opposed giving SHIP exclusive rights to sell the port as a prime location for an international container terminal.

Wooder has been involved in port development in Sydney since 2005, and recently was invited to a meeting of Cape Breton regional council where councillors voted 9-4 for a motion to extend the exclusivity agreement for SHIP.

Councillors who voted against it argued they were not given an opportunity to see details of the contract.

Wooder and his partners wrote a letter to the Cape Breton Post in which they supported council's decision to stay with the current marketing company.

He spoke with CBC's Information Morning host Steve Sutherland about his new position on the subject.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

CBC: Do you have any relationship in any capacity with Sydney Harbour Investment Partners?

WOODER: No. We came to the conclusion a while ago that they had put together a consortium and they became more and more credible. The addition of Ports America puts this thing over the top from our perspective in terms of SHIP earning our respect. Really, this is Sydney's team. This is the team that we have fielded to get us to the goal line. So why wouldn't we support them? Council asked them to take this on, at their expense. We've had the pleasure of meeting [Peter] Ford, the chief strategy officer at Ports America, a very impressive competent individual who knows this industry and he's prepared to plump Sydney now on his dime. So, for me it's a crisis of agreement. This is what we've been working for collectively for 11 years. And it's not just about me and Brian [Shebib] and Marty [Chernin]. It's about the community stepping up and basically pushing government to fund a $38-million dredge project. Why the hell have we been doing all this? It's about a substantial, transformative event for Sydney.

CBC: Have you seen that contract?

WOODER: The agreement that was presented with the motion was part of the package at the council meeting when council approved that it be executed. So I've seen the draft. That's all I need to see.

CBC: What about concerns of granting a 99-year lease?

WOODER: There's only one of two ways that this project is going to get financed and actually constructed, and that's if the proponents have a sufficient term lease to be able to amortize that kind of investment over. Or they're going to have to own the land. You're not going to build a house ... unless you've got a very, very long-term call on the land, and this is no different.... If you look at [Prince Rupert, B.C.'s] 2014 economic development report, which gives a snapshot of what the terminal means to the regional municipality, it can be loosely summarized as thus: $1.2 billion of economic activity per year. That translates into $350 million in wages with an average salary of $65,000, 3,320 full-time equivalent jobs and $81 million in tax revenue. That's the size of the prize.

with files from Information Morning

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