CANSO: A major employer in the area received federal government assistance to upgrade their operation.

On October 5, it was announced that Canso Seafoods Ltd. will receive a repayable loan of $900,000 for facility upgrades and new equipment. Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway made the announcement in Canso on behalf of Mélanie Joly, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

According to ACOA, the funding will enable Canso Seafoods to add a new building to its existing manufacturing plant, along with acquiring a custom-made steam cooker and a high-efficiency freezer that will allow the company to increase production, lengthen the processing season, diversify product lines, and hire more employees.

While heaping praise on Canso Seafoods’ parent company, Louisbourg Seafoods, calling it “a leader in the industry and community,” Kelloway noted that this was a project he has been pushing since he was elected last year.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Kelloway told The Reporter. “Jim Kennedy and Lori Kennedy of Louisbourg Seafoods are pretty bullish on the fish plant. They want to do what they can to maximize that asset; be able to produce more product, process more product and actually hire more people, which is fantastic.”

Pointing to $2 billion in seafood exports last year from Atlantic Canada, Kelloway said this “strategic investment” is important not just economically, but socially.

“Listening to the manager of the plant today, we chatted before the speeches, and he talked about the passion and the family of workers in Canso, and how committed they are to the operation,” the MP noted. “When you have that as your foundation, and you have a business that is doing well, but could do better, these investments are essential.”

According to ACOA, the expansion and new technology will help Canso Seafoods maintain a competitive edge in local and international markets for lobster and snow crab.

“By implementing new technology, rural-based food producers can take advantage of emerging opportunities in the food industry, boost innovation, compete internationally and modernize the sustainability of ocean resources,” Joly said in a press release. “This investment from ACOA is helping to build on the momentum of Atlantic Canada’s ocean economy.”

For their part, Louisbourg Seafoods recalled a promise made more than a decade ago.

“In 2008, Jim Kennedy made a commitment to bring seafood processing jobs back to Canso,” said Allan MacLean, senior operations manager, Louisbourg Seafoods. “Today’s announcement of our company’s significant investment in the expansion of the Canso Seafoods Plant reconfirms that commitment to the community of Canso, the Municipality of Guysborough and most importantly the employees at the facility.”

The funding is provided through ACOA’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) program, which helps businesses adopt innovative technologies that support scale-up, productivity and competitiveness.

Kelloway added there will be more federal announcements in Cape Breton-Canso in the “immediate future.”

“With the right tools, rural communities can attract people from around the world, people that have left their home and want to come back, they just need the tools and the ability to do it,” he added.