TRENTON, N.S. – The Nova Scotia government has rejected three bids to operate a former wind tower manufacturing plant in Pictou County, including two bids of only $1, says the province’s business minister.
Mark Furey said Tuesday that as a result there would be a new round of bids for the former DSME Trenton plant, which closed in February after taxpayers had sunk $56.3 million into the facility.
Furey said the move comes after receiver PricewaterhouseCoopers recommended the rejection of all the bids received under the court-approved sale process after each failed to meet qualification requirements, including the payment of a $100,000 deposit with their expression of interest.
“In two instances there were bids of $1, these were the operational bids,” said Furey. “The third operational bid included a $3 million offer, but no substantive content to the business plan.”
Along with the operational bids, the receivers also rejected four bids to buy the plant’s equipment.
Furey said the receiver would now consider other kinds of proposals, including lease-to-own arrangements. He said that option wasn’t part of the first round’s criteria, and so the process had to be formally closed in order to launch the new bidding.
Despite the tepid reception from the private sector, Furey said the government has no plans at this point to liquefy the facility’s assets.
“It has been our objective from the outset to exhaust all avenues and options for the continued operation of this facility,” he said.
Operations at the manufacturing facility ceased less than a month after the province said it wouldn’t put any more public money into a plant that had hoped to develop the capacity to produce 250 wind turbine towers and 200 blade sets per year.
At the time, the company said it was trying to secure orders in heavy steel fabrication in the wind, oil and gas and rail sectors.
The previous NDP government announced in 2010 it had taken a 49 per cent equity stake in the firm, committed up to $59.4 million to the manufacturing plant and predicted 500 jobs would be created within three years.
Last week, Premier Stephen McNeil defended sticking with the operation despite the fact it never made money or came close to its job projections.
“There were commitments that were being made that potentially we would see some positive stuff come out of that plant and obviously that didn’t happen,” McNeil said.
When the closure was announced, DSME told the province that it couldn’t start payment on $36 million in repayable loans, which was scheduled to begin in early 2018.
“We don’t know that there is any opportunity to recover any of those losses,” Furey said Tuesday.
He said there was enough money from the remaining funds to keep the plant in operational shape until next June.
The province is the primary secured creditor for the plant.
By Keith Doucette in Halifax