METEGHAN, N.S. – Everyone has to start somewhere.
Cedric Robicheau remembers the days when B.M.C. Seafoods Ltd. in Meteghan started out. It was 1995 and they were buying lobster from one boat.
“I had an old ’78 U-Haul truck. Every time the boat was coming in they had to wait for me to put my paint away because I wanted to paint the rust off the truck,” Robicheau, the company’s president and owner, said during an event at the company’s Meteghan location on Jan. 15.
Over time they kept adding to the company, gaining more boats to buy lobster from, while gaining more trust from fishermen, he said.
“After that, well, we needed to buy a piece of land. Over here on Water Street I had to buy out 22 bootleggers to make B.M.C.,” Robicheau said to laughter. Even funnier, he wasn’t joking.
Again over time the company continued to grow, he recalled, increasing the number of boats it purchased lobster from, expanding its workforce, and expanding its markets – from within Canada to the United States. And now it has more and more overseas markets on its radar.
At present, the company is looking to tackle its biggest growth yet. It is in Phase 1 of a facility expansion that is first increasing B.M.C. Seafoods’ lobster holding capacity by 50,000 pounds. The company intends to operate year-round, meaning it can convert 50 seasonal positions to full-time jobs and create 13 new jobs on top of that.
“We’re going to press the gas one more time – (albeit not in that 1978 U-Haul truck) – and we’re going to bring these lobsters to China and Belgium and the UK, and other places,” said Robicheau. “We want to bring lobster overseas – good quality, premium lobsters.”
New equipment is part of the company’s Phase 1, including grading scales to better grade lobsters by size prior to exporting them to market. The installation of new rollers helps out with the packing. Other new equipment includes chillers and a refrigeration system, a monitoring and security system, pumps, filters and more.
Assisting the company is the federal government through ACOA’s Business Development Program with a repayable contribution of $225,000 for this first phase of work.
As of result of the improvements, B.M.C. Seafoods will be able to purchase live lobster from close to 70 fishing boats in nine geographical fishing areas and will be able to hold up to 300,000 pounds of live lobster in its current facility. The company has been working to meet all Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Transport Canada requirements.
But the company isn’t stopping here. Because when there is a Phase 1, it means there is a Phase 2 to follow. That phase will get underway in March.
“We’re building another tank shop that’s going to hold around 750,000 pounds of lobster,” Robicheau said.
The company currently processes around 6 million pounds of lobster annually. With its expansion it is looking to increase this volume to 10 million pounds. The company purchases live lobsters in southwestern Nova Scotia when the LFA 33, 34 and 35 seasons are open. When those seasons are closed it will be turning to other fishing districts to purchase lobster from to sustain a year-round operation.
There is a lot of support and excitement for the company’s plans.
“We know, and seafood exports around the world know, that the best seafood in the world comes from right here in southwestern Nova Scotia and from St. Mary’s Bay, and it’s because of companies like B.M.C. Seafoods and their partnerships with hard-working Nova Scotia fishermen that we can make that claim,” said West Nova MP Colin Fraser at the Jan. 15 event.
He noted the seafood industry generates $3.2 billion within the Atlantic Canadian economy and a huge percentage of this comes from southwestern Nova Scotia, making the industry an important economic driver. And there is always potential for growth, he said.
“B.M.C. is following through on its ambitious plans to grow, both in export revenues and employment. The company remains dedicated to company satisfaction, determined to generate more jobs here in Meteghan and, of course, to continue to provide the highest quality lobster and seafood that our region has to offer,” Fraser said.
Added Clare Warden Ronnie LeBlanc, “It is thanks to businesses such as B.M.C. seafoods that communities like ours can thrive. For close to 23 years the company has played an important role in this region’s lobster industry.”
Aside from the employment it provides, the company’s business provides many economic spinoffs, LeBlanc said, crediting Robicheau and the company for their vision, energy and ongoing hard work.
Robicheau added that a large part of the credit for B.M.C.’s success goes to many others as well.
“You can’t forget the lobster boats and the crews, those are the ones that make the circles turn first,” he said. “And we wouldn't be here if it wasn’t for my employees. They’re good workers.”