GTH has the right ingredients for value-added growthIndustry expert says location, water give GTH unique edge
Dan Prefontaine knows that turning the seed of an idea into a flourishing, large-scale processing business takes time, investment and the right mix of assets.
Prefontaine is President of the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre, a Saskatoon-based organization that helps entrepreneurs take plans for Saskatchewan crops from concept to commercialization. Based on experience, he says the GTH can be a natural fit for companies who may be preparing for a move into mid- to large-sized processing facilities.
“Where I see the big opportunity is on the ingredient processing side,” says Prefontaine. “A facility needs to be set up at a place (the GTH) that has good access to raw materials; you can move a fair amount of volume, need access to truck traffic, need access to rail. It’s a big advantage to be in a location that has all of that.”
The water advantage
The Food Centre operates with a simple three-word premise: Create. Connect. Commercialize. It has helped numerous companies turn Saskatchewan commodities into commercially viable food products, with some of those companies now operating from their own independent processing facilities.
Prefontaine said the GTH has two critical components that are important to companies preparing to make the leap to full-scale production: the opportunity for greenfield development and access to a secure supply of water.
New tenants at the GTH have the ability to design and build facilities that are specific to their industry – working with the GTH team to accelerate planning and approvals.
“We’ve looked for space for some processors, but most of the large-scale commercial space is basically warehouse space,” says Prefontaine. “Warehouse space isn’t meant for food processing. A processor’s space has to have components that are very specialized.”
First and foremost is the supply of clean water and system for the treatment and release of wastewater. In December, the GTH and City of Regina finalized an agreement that secures municipal servicing for water, wastewater and road infrastructure until 2040. With a defined formula for servicing, the GTH can offer tenants a clear picture of supply and costs for decades to come.
“If you get into large-scale processing, you use a considerable amount of water,” says Prefontaine. “And water management is a whole issue. Water going down the drain isn’t clean water and some need pre-treatment plants.
“It’s an ongoing cost you have to deal with, so it’s important that policies don’t change in three years. We see it with processors all over the place. Everybody wants to attract them, but once they are operating everyone wants to penalize them for putting a strain on the system. Companies are looking for security.”
Reaching value-added targets
Prefontaine believes Saskatchewan can achieve its target of $6 billion in value-added processing activity, although it will be a long-term proposition. Some of it will come from large-scale arrivals in the province; some from companies making the leap from small business to mid-sized enterprise and a large number will be local entrepreneurs developing their ideas at the Food Centre.
“It’s going to take a lot of high-volume processing to move the needle from where we are to where we want to be,” says Prefontaine. “In Canada, for a smaller company, growth takes a while. And you need a decent volume of business before you can put pegs in the ground. We take them as far as we can including into the market. The next step is to get them to be large enough to make the investment in facilities.”
If the Food Centre is the place to write the first chapter, the GTH intends to be the happily ever after ending.
Adding value to value-added agricultureGTH attracts veteran talent to lead agricultural business development
Stevyn Arnt has spent a lifetime in the grain industry. The son of a long-time grain company executive, he loaded grain cars and ships, managed terminals, and developed export strategies for industry and government.
And now, as Vice President, Business Development at the Global Transportation Hub (GTH), Arnt gets to tackle the untapped potential of value-added processing in Saskatchewan at the GTH.
“The GTH is an underutilized asset,” says Arnt, who spent almost three years as the senior strategic lead for value-added agriculture in Saskatchewan’s Ministry of the Economy. “It’s something that can be marketed toward the right type of companies that are choosing to grow here – great location, close proximity to commodities and labour, networks of contacts in government. We can help remove some of the uncertainty that holds back business growth.”
Arnt brings a rare mix of understanding of private industry, agriculture, transportation and government policy. He spent almost two decades working with Canada’s largest agricultural companies – including Viterra, Agrium, James Richard International and Paterson Grain – before taking on an export development role in government.
That diverse resume has prepared him well to help processors understand the unique advantages of the GTH. It also means he understand the need to move and make decisions at the pace of private industry.
“In my role in export development, I was trying to help companies interested in growth learn how to navigate the system,” says Arnt. “Companies are receptive to that. There are not a lot of people who can help them connect the dots and get projects completed in a timely manner at the pace of business. Here at the GTH, we can remove that uncertainty.”
As a self-regulating authority, the GTH has the ability to move quickly on approvals and planning. In a rapidly changing global environment, that is a tremendous advantage.
Added to that, the GTH now has experienced business development professionals who understand the needs of business.
Earlier in 2018, the GTH hired Jordan Gaw into the business development department. Gaw brings more than 15 years of experience in finance, procurement and export development, including eight years with the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP).
From his experience, Gaw says the GTH offers a unique solution that appeals to the types of companies he met during his time with STEP.
“There are companies looking for opportunities to do business in Canada; who want to produce closer to the source or are looking to expand here,” said Gaw. “The GTH is a plug-and-play option, with trade infrastructure already in place. It’s a very good competitive proposition.”
Based on his experience, Gaw believes value-added agriculture holds immediate upside potential – for farmers, processors, the GTH and the province as a whole. With growing concern for food security, traceability and uncertainty around trade barriers, there is a renewed interest in valued-added processing occurring here, providing more options for producers and exporters.
“Canada has a reputation globally for a stable place with rule of law,” says Gaw. “We’re a great place to do business from and a trusted place for food. The GTH is a place with infrastructure located close to the source of production. That’s good for business and has huge economic benefits and spinoffs.”
To learn how the GTH can help you grow, contact Stevyn Arnt (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jordan Gaw (Jordan.email@example.com).
GTH board welcomes familiar faceNithi Govindasamy brings four decades of government and agriculture industry experience
He helped one government ministry embark upon the largest infrastructure investment ever made in Saskatchewan. Now, Nithi Govindasamy is turning this attention to help ensure the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) will be a driving force for the provincial economy.
The retired civil servant accepted an opportunity earlier this year to serve as a strategic advisor to GTH Chief Executive Officer Bryan Richards. More recently, Govindasamy was appointed a member of the organization’s board of directors.
“The GTH’s new strategic direction and focus on agriculture is not misplaced,” observes Govindasamy. “Regina is a hub of major production for a number of crops including oats, canola and pulses in particular. The key is to move up that value chain and explore opportunities beyond bulk handling which is what Saskatchewan has typically been known for. I think this focus is the right one and I am happy to help support the GTH’s evolution in this regard.”
Following a 40-year career in government, Govindasamy retired in 2017 as the deputy minister at the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure. The majority of his time was focused on agriculture business development, trade policy and negotiations. Govindasamy believes his last official role in highways was a natural fit for him.
“Because highway infrastructure and transportation is central to this province and agriculture is our biggest industry, we need the best transportation system available to be able to export our products to the world,” says Govindasamy. “Serving in that ministry was a great way to culminate my career in government and now parlaying that energy on the success of the GTH is a natural step for me.”
Under his tenure, the government also embarked upon the $1.8 billion Regina Bypass project, an ambitious infrastructure project that is on schedule for completion in October 2019. Govindasamy believes this infrastructure will help elevate the value of Saskatchewan’s inland port.
“The original purpose and vision of the GTH continues to be relevant,” he says. “Working with private industry, we’ll find the best ways to take the GTH to the next level.”
Making a difference
The holidays are a wonderful time for family, friends, and gratitude. The GTH wanted to mark the holiday season by doing a good deed for those less fortunate in our community.
In addition to making donations, several members of the GTH team spent the morning on December 12 assembling boxes for the Regina Food Bank’s Hampers of Hope campaign.
We were not only pleased to volunteer our time, but were proud to help place food items in these hampers that were donated by one of our very own clients! Canadian retail giant Loblaw is a company with a big heart and has been a long-time supporter of the Regina Food Bank. The Loblaw Regina distribution centre located at the GTH regularly donates perishable items and other goods to the Food Bank to help those less fortunate in our community.
Only with ongoing support from the community can important agencies like the Food Bank fight against hunger and feed hope in our communities. From donating items, sorting & distributing or hosting special events, community support and volunteering is essential in making a difference.
For those who are unable to donate their time, please consider a financial contribution. As added incentive, Saskatchewan-based fertilizer company Nutrien is matching the first $500,000 of cash donations to food banks across the province! The campaign ends at the end of the month so if you haven’t donated yet, please consider helping feed people in need and consider sharing this message so we can educate others on the importance of addressing hunger issues.
From all of us at the GTH, Merry Christmas and all the best for a healthy and prosperous 2019!