Chamber seeking nuclear science centre
SEAN CHASE The Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce has elected its board of directors for 2013. In the photo are (front left to right) treasurer Kim Drake, president Brian McInall, Deep River chair John Walden, and past-president Gary Melnyk; (back left to right) directors-at-large Hélene Grondin, Nathan Lowe (Algonquin business student representative), Janice Krieger, Rebecca Bair Patel, Shawn Behnke and Jocelyn Scott. Missing are vice-president Osiah Horst and director Marilyn Alexander.
The Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce is proposing the establishment of a centre to promote the area’s tourism while celebrating its rich science and technology heritage.
The chamber hopes the Canadian Nuclear Science and Technology Centre will not only draw visitors, but sell the benefits of doing business in this region.
While the business plan for the 3,500-square foot centre, to be located along the Highway 17 corridor but in close proximity to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited at Chalk River, are in their infancy so far all stakeholders involved support the concept. That partnership with the chamber includes AECL and the municipalities of Deep River, Laurentian Hills and Head, Clara and Maria.
“There has certainly been some significant interest and they have asked us to continue our investigation into their particular opportunity,” past-president Gary Melnyk recently told the organization’s annual general meeting.
The chamber will manage and staff the centre as a year-round tourist information centre. It will promote attractions and activities as well as economic development initiatives aimed at aiding businesses in the area. It will also provide a local Chamber of Commerce point of contact for anyone inquiring about economic development statistics and data.
Chamber president Brian McInall said they have asked the stakeholders to assist co-operatively and to the best of their ability in the acquisition of capital funding for the project, anticipated to cost $525,000. However, the size of the building will determine the final cost.
“Each stakeholder will commit to a long-term agreement with the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce, and then together we can create a funding formula to ensure the costs are shared equitably,” he said.
The chamber would be expected to contribute 50 per cent of the cost, an amount coming to $262,500. The chamber hopes to attract financing to cover the balance at six per cent over 10 years with an annual debt servicing cost of $35,000. Once built, they will rent floor space to AECL at an annual cost of $30,500. The participating municipalities will be given 450 square feet for a yearly rental fee of $4,500.
The birthplace of Canada’s nuclear industry is a natural attraction for the region, however, the onsite visitor’s centre at the Chalk River Laboratories was closed in 2001. This past summer, AECL conducted its first open house in 12 years drawing over 2,000 people.
“It showed a need for that type of attraction off site,” said McInall, noting the centre would allow AECL the chance to highlight the energy, health, environmental and economic benefits that come from nuclear science and technology. “There’s not a lot of opportunities for that sector to promote itself.”
There are several proposed sites for the centre, which could be opened as early as the spring of 2014. The business park at Chalk River is the lead contender given that the chamber feels it could provide the anchor that attracts other firms to that location. It could also fill a gap left by the Petawawa Research Forest Visitor Information Centre, which is only open during the summer months. The centre has been struggling since Head, Clara, Maria and the Town of Petawawa pulled out as financial contributors last year.