Rental construction boom helping fuel Cape Breton wallboard plant expansion

Nova Scotia's only gypsum wallboard plant is expanding.

Cabot Manufacturing in Point Tupper is spending about $6.5 million to upgrade its plant and add to its product line.

Company president Marcel Girouard said the expansion is being driven in part by the boom in urban condo and high-rise apartment construction, and a trend toward higher ceilings.

Girouard anticipates the expansion will create as many as 40 new jobs.

The expansion comes on the heels of a rocky period for the industry in recent years, which is a result of the 2008 financial crisis and the corresponding slowdown in housing construction.

The previous owner of the Point Tupper plant, Federal Gypsum, went bankrupt in 2008.

Girouard said Cabot has benefited from it's affiliation with Acadian Drywall Ltd., which bought the Point Tupper plant in 2011 and has an established distribution network.

Cabot Manufacturing

Cabot currently sells its products across Canada and exports to the United States and other countries.

Raw material comes from all over North America, with some coming from Nova Scotia.

Girouard sees potential for gypsum mining to return to Cape Breton.

"We've done some drilling on some land not far from the plant, so we'll see what happens," he said.

Increasing demand for gypsum boards

George Karaphillis, the dean of the Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University, said the housing market being on an upswing and a trend toward energy efficient buildings are good news for Cabot.

"The economists are predicting something like an 11 per cent annual increase in the demand for gypsum boards worldwide," said Karaphillis. "It's in demand pretty much everywhere."

He said natural gypsum is a sustainable material and has good insulating properties.

Nova Scotia Business Inc. is providing a rebate that will cover 25 per cent of the expansion costs.