There’s hope on the South Shore that a new $48-million interchange on Highway 103 to be announced Wednesday will pave the way for more jobs at the Bridgewater Business Park.
The industrial park has over 50 industrial, light industrial and retail businesses that employ about 1,350 people. But French tire giant Michelin is the largest employer at the park “by a country mile,” one source said late Tuesday.
“It’s certainly a big deal for anyone that goes in and out of Bridgewater,” said the source. “Because, as it is, you compete with the truck traffic coming in and out of Michelin.”
The work to be announced Wednesday is “going to open up the industrial park for further expansion by creating a new exit directly on to the 103,” said the source.
The project is aimed at increasing the value and volume of exports to overseas markets. About 75 per cent of all Michelin products manufactured in the province are exported within North America, and 30 per cent of its winter tires are exported to the U.S. and markets overseas.
“The province has been working on this project for months.”
The feds and the province are each expected to kick in about $20 million for the project. The Town of Bridgewater is slated to invest about $8 million in the new interchange 100 kilometres southwest of Halifax.
The move should increase the amount of industrial land available in the park for development, said the source.
Michelin opened its Bridgewater plant in October of 1971 on 30 hectares of land in the newly opened business park. By 2007, the factory had produced its 100 millionth tire. Seven years later, it was employing about 1,200 people.
Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan, who is also the South Shore MP, is expected to be on hand for the announcement at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre, along with Premier Stephen McNeil.
“The timing has nothing to do with the election,” said the source.
“Bernadette has been working on this for months. The province has been working on this project for months.”
Michelin operates three production plants in Nova Scotia.
The company announced in September 2014 that it would buy 24 hectares of land north of its 109-hectare Waterville plant property for $1.8 million.
The land had been owned by the Municipality of Kings County, which bought the land and the airport existing on it in 1976. When Michelin’s interest in the land became public, the municipality began scrambling to find a place to relocate the airport.
The airport eventually was to move to 14 Wing Greenwood. But the Michelin expansion never materialized.
In the spring of 2014 Michelin announced it was laying off 500 people at its plant in Granton, Pictou Co.
But last fall, Michelin announced it would spend $20 million on new equipment for the factory near New Glasgow. The move was expected to make 200 temporary jobs permanent.
At the time Michelin said it was expecting to employ about 3,600 people in Nova Scotia.