Ketchikan borough wants state grant to buy cannery

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) The Ketchikan Gateway Borough is applying for a $5 million state grant to buy the Wards Cove Cannery.

Borough Manager Roy Eckert said Wednesday that the borough planned to apply for two state fisheries economic development grants, one to purchase the Wards Cove Cannery and a second one, also for $5 million, to build a new community cold storage facility in Ward Cove.

The borough has been discussing building a cold storage plant for some time, but only recently announced that it was looking at purchasing the Wards Cove operation.

Eckert said the borough is seeking $5 million in state aid to purchase the cannery, which the borough in turn would lease to a private operator.

Two groups have approached the borough about leasing the facility, according to Dick Adams, executive director of the Ketchikan Economic Development Authority.

The two groups, which he wouldn't identify, are interested in more than just canning salmon, according to Adams. Both have expressed interest in a frozen block system, where salmon would be frozen in blocks of ice and shipped to the Far East.

They also have suggested that they would like to process the salmon in pouches. He said the two groups interested are a co-op in the early stages of inception and a new corporation.

The $5 million grant would pay for the purchase and retooling of the Wards Cove Cannery. Adams said the most recent asking price for the facility was about $1.2 million.

Wards Cove Packing Co. announced late last year that it was shutting down all nine of its salmon processing plants, including the original Wards Cove Cannery that opened in 1928. Several of the other facilities have been sold.

Besides the cannery purchase and retooling, the borough wants $5 million from the state for the proposed community cold storage project.

The Fisheries Sector Group, which was formed last April, envisions a cold storage area with a capacity of 8 million to 10 million pounds and estimates it would cost about $9.5 million, said Fisheries Sector Group member Leigh Gerber.

He said other grants the borough is seeking could help pay for the remainder of the project. Gerber said the group is hoping to build the new facility in Ward Cove and estimates that the facility would create 14 direct jobs.

Both grant applications are due to be filed with the state by Monday. The Fisheries Economic Development Matching Grant Program is intended to assist fishing communities affected by the downturn in the salmon fishing industry, according to the state.

About $13 million in grant money is available this year.

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