Moncton eyes opening fifth industrial park as companies move in, expand

·4 min read

Darrin Smith says Moncton checked all of the boxes as he sought to expand his Ontario-based tool making company.

"Why be in the most expensive place in Canada when you can be in a place that's much more affordable for yourself and your staff?" Smith, president of JessEm Tool Company, said in an interview.

The company that makes woodworking tools and accessories in Orillia is relocating to a new factory in one of Moncton's four industrial parks. It plans to almost double its workforce to 60 once its new, larger factory is open in the spring.

The company bought a parcel of land on Desbrisay Avenue in Moncton Industrial Park West, run by the Moncton Industrial Development Ltd., or MID.

It's one of the companies behind rapid growth in Moncton's industrial parks.

Pierre Dupuis, general manager of Moncton Industrial Development, said last year was record-setting for the company. This year, Dupuis said, it is set to almost double that with almost 100 sold, worth about $5 million.

"It's quite phenomenal when you look at the economy as a whole that we were able to pull that off in a year that's had some challenges," Dupuis said.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

The non-profit company, started in 1959 as a partnership between the municipality and chamber of commerce, developed and runs four industrial or business parks around the city.

With land in some of the three older industrial parks 80 to 90 per cent sold, and a fourth that opened this year about 30 per cent sold, MID expects to begin work on a fifth park over the next few years.

"We've got to find new areas to develop industrial parks, mostly for warehousing, logistics distribution type of uses," Dupuis said.

In 2018, MID purchased wooded land between Shediac Road and Route 15. The 132-acre parcel is northwest of the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Recent logging on the parcel has driven speculation of development in the area, though Dupuis said it was partly because they needed to remove old oil tanks from the property.

He said market demand, which has been "surreal" lately, will drive when the area develops. He expects it could be within one to five years.

After that, MID plans to expand south from Moncton Industrial Park West off Berry Mills Road over the CN rail line into a large, wooded area north of the CN rail yard the city expropriated about a decade ago.

That area would need costly infrastructure, including a bridge to cross a rail line, to access.

Dupuis said calls to MID from businesses about industrial park space slowed early in the pandemic, but activity quickly picked up.

He said warehouses that at one point held one week's worth of stockpile for businesses now see the need to hold up to three weeks to protect against supply disruptions.

Smith said he had been eyeing relocating JessEm Tool Company's factory to Moncton for several years.

He said he wasn't finding suitable land to expand near the company's existing location about 100 kilometres north of Toronto, and what was available was expensive.

The company's business had been growing, but COVID-19 made it double overnight, he said. The pandemic has led to shortages of lumber and other construction supplies as more people have undertaken home renovations.

"We just can't keep up," Smith said.

That triggered the decision to move up the relocation to Moncton.

"I think our construction costs were probably 30 per cent less [in Moncton] compared to here, which is pretty significant since there's only so much money to go around and you can't spend it all on a building," he said.

Submitted by Darrin Smith
Submitted by Darrin Smith

Smith said the relocation will see several family members also make the move to help run the family business. Originally from Newfoundland, he had wanted to move back East.

He said about a dozen of his current 35 employees are also willing to move.

"I think real estate was a big draw to the Moncton area," Smith said. "Real estate is really affordable, which is great for my staff.

"Instead of renting a basement here somewhere in Ontario, they might actually be able to buy a house and get a good start in life."