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Williams Lake city council receives presentation from company eyeing Jackpine site

Massive Canada CEO and Jackpine site owner answer questions from council, media

The chief executive officer of a company hoping to develop a modular construction plant at the Jackpine site appeared before Williams Lake city council Tuesday, June 6.

Gaetan Royer of Massive Canada, with a head office in Port Moody, said the purpose of the presentation was to introduce the company, which he described as both a tech company and a construction manufacturer.

Massive Canada has a binding offer for the Jackpine property at 4400 Mackenzie Avenue, subject to due diligence reports, and expects to make a decision in June.

“Williams Lake in our view has a workforce that is a really good fit for our needs,” he said. “We are here for the long run so we want to make sure we are employing locally.”

Massive Canada is a new company focused on pre-fabrication and building finished homes, as well as multi unit dwelling, even six-story buildings.

Royer told council he is an urban planner, an architect and was a city planning manager in the past.

He said the company proposes to transform and modernize how homes are built, with all the initial work done inside the plant.

Deep Sandhu, the company’s chief investment officer, was also at the council meeting.

His family owned the Jackpine group of companies which started in 1986 and operated until 2008.

“At the height of our operation we had two sawmills and a manufacturing plant in Williams Lake,” Sandhu told the Tribune.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, i.e. the recession, it kind of took us out. It was unfortunate but here we are 15 years later. We’ve come full circle.”

Today Sandhu operates the family’s companies, which have diversified into real estate and investment management.

Six years after Jackpine closed they purchased the property in 2014.

There is nothing inside the building.

He said the receiver in 2014 had an auction and sold all the machinery. Sandhu described it as an empty shell.

“It is in very good condition and has very good bones, but for being idle for 15 years it does show some wear and tear and some TLC is needed, but nothing of great concern.”

Jackpine no longer owns the property on Frizzi Road, he confirmed.

Sandhu said they offered him a position with the firm as the chief investment officer because he has experience in the value-added, forestry and construction management industries.”

People in Williams Lake may also recognize Sandhu as one of the participants in the annual Tl’etinqox First Nation ride to the Williams Lake Stampede.

Royer said he met with Chief Willie Sellars earlier, with Xatsull First Nation on Tuesday, June 6, and has a letter of support from Williams Lake First Nation and is working on other letters of support.

Mayor Surinderpal Rathor said the city has written one as well.

Coun. Scott Nelson said what he likes about the company is that it’s the next generation.

“That’s what we need right now. Last week the province created a naughty list - we are not on it - they are putting pressure on those communities to create affordable housing,” Nelson said. “Massive Canada could build affordable housing sooner than later.”

Coun. Sheila Boehm asked how long would it take to be up and running and Royer said they hope to start renovating the building in the summer of 2023 and will order the equipment right away so it could arrive by the end of the year.

He anticipates first operations beginning in early 2024 at a 25 per cent capacity as they learn and train and by 2025 be ready to hire “a lot more people.”

When Boehm asked if the technology is used somewhere else, Royer said he attended a conference in Phoenix recently where he saw some of it there.

“You will not see luxury custom homes,” he added.”We are coming to this thinking there are people who need housing.”

Coun. Moses thanked him for seeking Indigenous support in advance, rather than an after thought, while Coun. Jazmyn Lyons said the proposal got her really excited.

“It is really cool, very forward thinking and I’m all for it coming to Williams Lake.”

Mayor Rathor thanked Royer for his faith in the community, and thanked economic development manager Beth Veenkamp for her work with the company.

If it goes ahead, Rathor said the project will be a $68M investment in the community.

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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