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$45M biotech centre proposed (10/02)

By Frank Scarcello Two hospital facilities will become surplus next year when the new Thunder Bay Regional Hospital opens.

By Frank Scarcello

Two hospital facilities will become surplus next year when the new Thunder Bay Regional Hospital opens.

Dominion Construction of Winnipeg and DST Consulting Engineers of Thunder Bay have joined together to submit a proposal that would develop one of them, the Port Arthur General Hospital site, into a six-storey biotechnology centre that will be marketed as a condominium.

Ray Williamson, project development manager for Dominion Construction, says the concept is a real winner and it could help put Thunder Bay on the map in what he describes an “exploding” industry.

“The biomedical field is an industry that is growing right now and we have to capitalize on these things if Thunder Bay is going to succeed,” Williamson says.

The estimated $45-million construction project would create over 250,000 square feet of space for a biotechnology centre. The proposal outlines that the centre can house over 400 employees and create $18 million in new salaries and inject a total of $90 million in the community on an annual basis.

The plan is to market the centre to companies engaged in a variety of different biomedical services such as pharmaceutical companies, gerontology research, diabetes and Aboriginal-disease pathologists and prosthetics manufacturers. The idea is that one or two companies would occupy one floor. The building would have to be 80 per cent pre-sold prior to any construction.

The presentation points out that Thunder Bay’s proximity to the “medical alley in Minnesota” is one of the reasons why this project could be successful.

“You have American firms with the strength of the U.S. dollar, instead of the brain drain, you can have American firms hire Canadians on Canadian soil,” says Williamson.

Williamson says it is an industry that will enhance the new hospital and will provide good paying jobs for young people.

“We need things that will retain our young people,” he says.

The group says it will require funding to conduct a feasibility study. They propose that the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital present a proposal to funding agencies on their behalf to finance the feasibility phase. If the feasibility study is positive, the group proposes to offer to purchase the Port Arthur General Hospital site and facilities for one dollar. The purchase would be conditional on financing being in place for the decommissioning of the building.