Chatham-Kent fish processors reel in $1.5M in federal funding

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Four fish-processing operations, including two in Wheatley, Ont., are sharing in FedDev relief funding announced Wednesday. (CBC News - image credit)
Four fish-processing operations, including two in Wheatley, Ont., are sharing in FedDev relief funding announced Wednesday. (CBC News - image credit)

Four fish-processing operations in Chatham-Kent will share nearly $1.5 million in COVID relief funding from FedDev Ontario.

The money, which comes from the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), was announced by Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk on Wednesday morning.

"With FedDev Ontario's investment, we are ensuring that four important fish and seafood processors in the Chatham–Kent area are well equipped to comply with COVID-19 safety measures, retain and attract skilled employees and get through this pandemic," he said.

The breakdown goes like this:

  • A &A Marine Foods of Blenheim: $500,000.

  • Great Lakes Food Company of Chatham: $362,000.

  • John O's Foods Inc. of Wheatley: $195,000.

  • Presteve Foods Ltd. of Wheatley: $400,000.

Hopes to reopen international markets

The funds will help processors cover fixed operating expenses, including COVID-19 safety measures, utilities, insurance and employee wages. They'll also be able to purchase personal protective equipment for employees, and retrofit shared workspaces to comply with social distancing measures, while retaining their skilled labour force and attracting new talent.

Jay Aird from John O's Foods Inc. and John Neate of Great Lakes Food Company of Chatham are seen in a screenshot from the funding announcement with Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk on April 7.
Jay Aird from John O's Foods Inc. and John Neate of Great Lakes Food Company of Chatham are seen in a screenshot from the funding announcement with Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk on April 7.(Dale Molnar/CBC)

"Our sales are 25 per cent of what they normally are in California," said John Neate, president and CEO of Great Lakes Food Company.

He said the funding from FedDev Ontario will help keep company operations safe and allow it to accelerate expansion plans, as it prepares to reopen its international markets by hiring eight more full-time staff.