Big things are on the horizon for former industrial land in Hawkesbury.

The town, in conjunction with its economic development agency, recently announced a $71-million plan for new commercial and industrial development on what remains of the former Amoco site near Highway 17 and Tupper Street. Extensive soil and water cleanup have taken place on the site, where a plant that manufactured carpet underlay was formerly located.

Part of the property is the existing shopping centre owned by real estate development company, Harden. The project includes a 200,000- square-foot addition to the shopping centre and a 380,000-square-foot new Canac hardware and building supplies warehouse store. The Hawkesbury location will be the first Canac store outside of Québec. On 14 acres behind the existing Voith Papers facility, Ecolomondo, a tire and rubber recycling company based in St-Laurent, will be setting up a new plant in 2019. Ecolomondo is investing $26 million in its Hawkesbury plant and it will employ 40 people. Also, in 2020, Laplante GM will be relocating to land next to the Quality Inn.

Gilles Gauthier, the consultant for the economic development agency, said the agency has owned the land, which it purchased amid concerns the former Amoco land would become a challenge similar to the former Canadian International Paper site in town. One of the remaining Amoco buildings had been used by Bentley luggage before it relocated to its present Tupper Street location.  There is a remaining two-acre parcel of vacant land, but Gauthier said it will likely be sold quickly once the Canac store and expansions to the Harden plaza are built. Gauthier could not say exactly what retail stores could be in the expanded shopping centre. The town will also retain property at the northeast corner of the development lands for use as a place to dump snow removed from streets during winter.

Contracts for site decontamination were awarded in 2010 and after successive tests showed that the filtration system had removed contaminants to acceptable levels, permission for redevelopment was granted in 2017. Gauthier said that without the cleanup work, “All of that would not be possible today,” regarding the new developments.

Street improvements are being made in the area to facilitate the new construction. A private access road has been assumed by the town and renamed Amoco Street. It will also improve access to the new Ontario Provincial Police detachment that is being built nearby. One other new side street will also be built in the area.

Gauthier said over 11 years, the development will mean over $4 million in municipal tax revenue and that 49 per cent of that will stay in the town treasury.

Hawkesbury Mayor Jeanne Charlebois said she was thrilled by the development plan.

“It’s wonderful news for people out there looking for work,” she said, adding that the Canac store will create 80 jobs. She is pleased with the increased tax revenue the developments will bring. Charlebois said the town had been in negotiations with Ecolomondo since 2015 and the deal was reached with the company in September.  The mayor said the project was result of “the right people showing up at the right time.”

Economic development activity has been looking good for Hawkesbury lately. The recent Opportunités Prescott-Russell Opportunities (OPRO) study by the Economic Development department of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell recently found that Hawkesbury is the municipality in the counties with the largest number of businesses with 100 or more employees. The study found that there has been an increase in new business activity in the town and that existing businesses have created an environment conducive to development. The OPRO study also found that bilingualism, and an excellent quality of living have made Hawkesbury a place with strong businesses development potential. However, the OPRO report does say that many citizens live with precarious economic conditions and there is a lack of skilled labour in Hawkesbury to fill positions where it is needed.