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Aquablue International to set up in Smiths Falls, Ontario

Yesterday the CBC reported that, “The Hershey Chocolate Factory in Smiths Falls, Ont., could soon have new owners, the town’s mayor said Tuesday. Dennis Staples said the company, Aquablue International, a Canadian water-bottling company, is finalizing its purchase of the factory that ceased operations last year in the town, which is about 80 kilometres southwest of Ottawa…Staples said he didn’t know what Aquablue International planned to do with the old Hershey Factory but job creation would likely be part of the new ownership.”

Today, the Sun Media (in newspapers like the Kingston Whig-Standard and the North Bay Nugget) reported that, “A Canadian water bottling company is negotiating to buy the former Hershey chocolate factory, promising a break in the economic gloom this town north of Kingston has endured over the past two years. Mayor Dennis Staples announced at a town council meeting earlier this week that Aqua – blue International is finalizing the purchase of the plant, town Councillor Chris Cummings confirmed yesterday. The mayor could not be reached for comment.”

The article also notes, “(Cummings said) ‘We would expect that this will result in employment opportunities for Smiths Falls and area.’…Staff at Aquablue’s Montreal office referred calls on the matter to the company’s chief financial officer, Robert Huppe, who was unavailable for comment.”

The town has already been very hard hit by large corporations. The closure of the Hershey’s plant as of March 31 resulted in about 500 jobs lost in Smiths Falls and area, while last year’s closure of Stanley Tools took another 175 jobs. Redding.com reported in May 2007 on the closure of plants in the United States and Canada that, “(Hershey) is shifting some work to contractors and a plant being built in Mexico, and has formed joint ventures to begin making its products in China and India. CTV reported in July 2008 that, “(Stanley Tools) management cited a declining U.S. dollar, global steel inflation and a shift in company strategy to blame.” The Stanley Tools website says, “The company employs approximately 20,000 people and, in 2006, had worldwide sales of $4.0 billion.”

The Ottawa Citizen also reported in March 2009 that, “Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur says the Rideau Regional Centre will close its doors at the end of the month (with a loss of 800 jobs to the community), ending the province’s long history of institutionalized care for the developmentally disabled. In the four years since the province announced that the Rideau Regional would close, 23 group homes have been built and 15 others expanded, according to the ministry.”

Smiths Falls is a town of about 9,000 people just outside of Ottawa. The town is located in the riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington and is represented federally by Conservative MP Scott Reid and provincially by Progressive Conservative MPP (and party leadership candidate) Randy Hillier.

We will be tracking this story to determine what Aquablue International intends to do with the former Hershey’s plant, if they are bottling water (which is likely) where that water will come from (local groundwater, source water or the municipal system), what the environmental impact of these operations would be, the number and quality of jobs that could be created (and the need to promote public and sustainable jobs), and more


The CBC News report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2009/05/20/ottawa-hershey-smiths-falls.html.

The Sun Media report is at http://www.thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1576596.

The Redding.com report is at http://www.redding.com/news/2007/May/2/hersheys-plant-closure-will-slice-575-job/.

The CTV report is at http://ottawa.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20080701/OTT_smiths_falls_close_080701/20080701/?hub=OttawaHome.

The Ottawa Citizen article is at http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Health/Closing+Rideau+Regional+Centre+historic/1383862/story.html.

The Aquablue International website is http://www.aquablueinternational.com/.