ASHCROFT — Ottawa believes in an inland port beside the Thompson River and showed its support Wednesday with a $5-million investment.
Now entrepreneur Bob Landucci must convince industrial firms and the two national railways to do business at his complex — a rare location on benchland where CP and CN trains both pass by.
“Everyone talks about an inland port and what it means to the transportation corridor in Canada,” said Chuck Strahl, MP for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon and Indian Affairs Minister.
“It’s not just a project for B.C. or Canada. It’s going to make a difference for the transportation corridor right down to Chicago.”
About 50 people gathered for the announcement at the Ashcroft Terminal site, located about five kilometres from the village but within the municipality.
While Landucci’s vision is an industrial hub, the valley has been prized by filmmakers for its wild beauty. The Thompson River flows swiftly by, punctuated by white-topped rapids. Hoodoos tower above the river and low-elevation grassland slopes rise steeply to plateaus above.
The backdrop played a major part in the film Shooter as well as other movies in the region that is popular with film productions.
Landucci, a Vancouver businessman who has a background in the forest industry as a mill owner, purchased the 130-hectare benchland six years ago from a blasting company. His vision for a major load and reload facility for trains started to come together last year when he landed a 10-year contract from Lafarge to load red shale from Hat Creek on a newly built siding.
He said Wednesday private investment will match or exceed the $5 million from the Conservative government. That money comes from a now expired pine beetle recovery fund and is being funnelled through the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative.
A handful of people now work at the site, jobs that will be boosted by short-term construction. Landucci is not making promises of job numbers but said the federal investment will help convince industrial customers of the future of the site.
Commodities such as lumber or pulp could be brought here by truck or train and containers unloaded until space is available on a freighter bound for Asia.
Landucci said today that material goes through to the Coast, where it is unloaded from a container and sits in a warehouse. When the freighter is ready to accept it, the material is reloaded into a container and shipped out.
The investment will build a base for an internal loop track, switches on a mainline track and crossings.
All of that will set the stage for industrial customers who will use the site, Landucci said.
“The railways are busy,” Landucci said. We have to make it fluid and make it work for them. They have to say, ‘What a great site.’”
Both Ashcroft and Kamloops have vied over the past decade to establish an inland port as a way to help free the busy Port of Vancouver. And it appears with the investment from Ottawa the tiny Fraser Canyon village won the battle.
Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar, who attended the announcement, said Kamloops lacked the location, with hundreds of acres beside both national railways.
“It strengthens the whole economic region. Certainly Venture Kamloops didn’t view this as an adversarial type proposal…. Could we pull off this site in Kamloops? Not realistically.”