Pontiac Industrial Park Smurfit mill project is still alive, says GIGI vice-president

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Fred Ryan

In November, the CBC reported on investigations which included the old Smurfit-Stone paper mill site in Litchfield, just outside Portage du Fort, raising multiple questions within the Pontiac.  The Journal also reported

Fred Ryan

In November, the CBC reported on investigations which included the old Smurfit-Stone paper mill site in Litchfield, just outside Portage du Fort, raising multiple questions within the Pontiac.  The Journal also reported
on these investigations, which appear to show that the Green Investment Group Inc (GIGI), which now runs the old mill zone, is in financial difficulties.  GIGI was to create and manage what would become the Pontiac Industrial Park on this site. 
The CBC claims the company has stripped some of its sites of all saleable metal and other items, sold them, but then did not fulfil all of its promises of job creation and business investment by which it obtained these sites.  Beside the Pontiac site, the company has similar locations elsewhere in Quebec, in New Brunswick and in the US.
Industrial Park
“still alive”
MRC-Pontiac Warden Raymond Durocher told the Journal that the Industrial Park project is still alive and that “the MRC still supports the industrial park project; it is very important for
the Pontiac’s future
economic development.”  He had no information on specific companies within the project, nor could he comment on rumours that GIGI is searching for a buyer.
Warden Durocher did add that the MRC staff has been trying
to communicate with GIGI’s Canadian vice-president, Gerry Phillippe of Aylmer, “for four months”, but with no
success.  The warden mentioned that the
company had asked for several zoning changes, but had failed to provide adequate details and explanations to allow the MRC to proceed with this request. He said his Director-General’s many meetings with Mr Phillippe earlier this year were to obtain information on the project and its progress, adding that the MRC still does not have a clear assessment of the project’s viability. He added that the first he had heard of any difficulties was via the Journal and other media.
Gerry Phillippe
speaks to the Journal
Mr Phillippe did respond to the Journal’s questions. As “GIGI’s Vice President, Canadian Operations,” he denied that the company is in financial difficulty. “The company is not in
trouble,” Mr Phillippe told the Journal. “When we dismantle a site, that’s the easy part, but it is slow finding other
companies to invest.”
“We’ve been here for about two and a half years. The Pontiac is far away, and now lacks a rail
connection, but we do have several companies in
operation on site – and Trebio is still producing wood pellets,” he said. 
As for a GIGI sale, Mr Phillippe said, “I’m not aware of it. I haven’t heard anything about GIGI being sold.”
As for communications with its Pontiac partners, Mr Phillippe was surprised that the MRC couldn’t reach him. “They have my new number, they know where I am.  I also met with the mayor of Litchfield recently.”
The vice president added that the CBC had been given positive news by his company, “which they decided not to report.”  He noted, “We have had problems like any company, and we’re like missionaries up here.  We can’t announce dates for investments or start-ups; that’s up to the investors.”
Mr Phillippe also said GIGI had purchased
seven properties and is
selling three of them, “but not here”.
MP Ravignat wants
the promised jobs
MP Mathieu Ravignat commented to the Journal that although there is
some federal money within the project, at the moment this is not considered
at risk, although the
MP remarked, “I am
disappointed with the results so far, especially job creation. Lots of people had high hopes . . . and they are right to be disappointed. Corporations have to take their responsibilities to their community and their environment seriously. American companies can buy infrastructure, like this, and sell it off; there are no federal regulations to protect us from such
predator speculation.
“This site has to be cleaned up, and the project has to provide the jobs
it promised,” the MP
insisted. He said a green technology incubator is a good idea, as the Industrial Park was originally sold to the Pontiac.
Coincidently, the company’s ex-Smurfit site in Frenchtown, Montana, sits idle, leaching ponds full
on a flood plan, with no more investors in view than Pontiac’s site, reports
The Missoulian newspaper, which recounted the CBC investigation in detail.