Nunatsiavut Group of Companies CEO says big businesses have shown interest
James Thorbourne, President and CEO of the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies (NGC), is confident investment in the Goose Bay Town Centre development will eventually pay off, even though the group is waiting for the first space to be sold.
© Derek Montague/The Labradorian
James Thorbourne, president and CEO of Nunatsiavut Group of Companies, is confident the Goose Bay Town Centre will be a success.
A lot of land has been cleared in the middle of Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the commercial lots, and a lot of infrastructure has been put in place. Core services, such as sewer and electricity, have been installed. But, despite many inquiries from various businesses, no written commitment has been made.
“We would hope to have a sale or two this year, but that depends on how we progress with various people who are interested in purchasing lots,” said Thorbourne.
“We think the land is perfectly located … we think that the land will sell eventually. If it takes us another couple of years to get things on there then so be it.”
When the development first began in 2011, residents and councillors were hoping chain stores with competitive retail prices would come to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, making life easier for consumers.
“Yes, I was in favour (of the development), in principle, because I think the concept of the development would benefit our community,” former town councillor Lydia Chubbs said in 2013.
“People … want to see box stores. People talk about Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, all these things people see when they go elsewhere.”
According to Mayor Jamie Snook, the current council also has high hopes for the development, and the potential benefits that come with it.
“The council is certainly supportive at this stage of the development. We are staying abreast of what’s going on there,” said Snook.
“We’re hopeful that, sooner rather than later, that Goose Bay Town Centre will have some tenants … it will be nice to have a new, modern, town centre with amenities.”
There are approximately 20 acres of commercial land available for purchase, at a price range of $8-$12 per square foot. NGC also plans to use some of the Town Centre space to erect a bigger and better office building for themselves.
According to Thorbourne, despite not having any commitments yet, there have been some interesting inquiries from the business community. Loblaws, a supermarket chain, has expressed some interest in potentially coming to town.
“We’ve had direct inquiries from big-name companies, Loblaws for example. Now, I’m not saying there’s a Loblaws coming here, but they’ve inquired how much land is available …,” said Thorbourne.
“There is a group interested in putting a hotel here, but that’s sort of been talked around and asked about for over a year now. But, really, until pen gets put to paper and people commit contractually to do something, they’re just leads …”
Sometimes the group receives inquiries anonymously from a business’ representative, without knowing who potential buyer is.
“We get inquiries from people who will use third-party people to represent them and, in those cases, we don’t know who the potential purchaser is,” said Thorbourne. “For example, a couple weeks ago, we were approached (by someone) looking for six to 12 acres of commercial land. That’s one-half, approximately, of the area that’s serviced so far.”
While many residents are hoping to see a bunch of new stores popping up in the area, Thorbourne said he doesn’t have a particular preference for what type of business comes to the centre.
“We don’t have a preference, but I wouldn’t say whoever’s interested as well. It needs to fit within … what the town wants,” said Thorbourne.
“We’re not going to be all that keen to do something that people are totally against.”
Chris Webb, NGC’s vice-president, corporate development, added that whoever builds on a lot must abide by certain standards. They want to make sure the centre isn’t an eyesore for Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
“We don’t want something to go up that’s going to look shabby,” said Webb. “You want to have a town development where everything looks professional and is neat and tidy.”
Dealing with dust and sand
Ever since the summer of 2013, residents have been annoyed with the amount of dust and sand that is blown around from the site.
Last year a barrier was constructed to try and stop all the sand that was blowing over to Tim Hortons next door.
Thorbourne agrees that something needs to be done to control the sand and dust levels from the construction site. The idea of using water sprinklers has been considered for this summer.
“I guess one of the things that could have been done is that less of the site could have been developed. But we’re required to develop a certain area to be in keeping with the development agreement with the town,” said Thorbourne
“We’ve talked about, when there are windy, dry, days … actually watering the site with sprinklers to try and be proactive to address the situation. It’s even hard for the workers who work on site when things are blowing around.”
Snook agrees that the level of dust and sand in Happy Valley-Goose Bay needs to be dealt with. He noted that several developments in town have become problematic in this regard.
“We are certainly of the same view and have been frustrated by the amount of dust, and Mr. Thorbourne is aware of that and we have expressed that to him.
“This issue actually goes well beyond (the Town Centre). The council would like to see more leadership from within the business community right across the board in that regard. There’s a number of sites in town, which are just left unattended to and are now sand pits.”