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Nova Scotia community woos Michelin investment

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Tire Business file photo The Kings County (Nova Scotia) Council wants to close the community's local airport and make the land available for Michelin North America Inc., whose Waterville plant borders the airport (lower right in the photo).

KINGS COUNTY, Nova Scotia (March 19, 2014) — The Kings County local government has voted to close the Waterville, Nova Scotia, airport and make the land — adjacent to a Michelin North America tire plant — available for sale.

The deal would potentially clear the way for what could be a $500 million investment/expansion.

The Municipality of Kings Council voted at a special meeting March 10 to close the Waterville Municipal Airport airport by Sept. 30 and proposed a business case study be undertaken to explore moving the airport to another location.

Michelin did not respond to a query for comment.

The proposal is acceptable as long as the province takes on the total cost of the study, the council said. The “terms of teference” will be presented to council for consideration at April’s regular Committee of the Whole meeting.

The airport, which occupies land adjacent to the Michelin factory, is managed by Waterville Airport Cooperative Ltd. It has one 3,500-foot runway serving primarily private aircraft. The property is question in approximately 40 acres.

“This isn’t the end of the line for the airport so long as there is a positive business case to support relocating it,” said Warden Diana Brothers. “The province has made it clear that they won’t make any commitments to funding the relocation without the benefit of a detailed assessment. We owe it to the citizens of Kings County to be sure this is an economically viable option.”

Ms. Brothers said if the study shows an airport can be sustainable and self-sufficient, the municipality will support the tenants and work with the province to find a new location.

“We can’t stifle a chance for economic growth,” she added. “If we wait to move the airport first, which could be one or two years down the road, we may miss an opportunity with Michelin. By making the land available now, we are showing that Kings County is open for business and eager to grow.”

The provincial government first floated the idea of moving the airport to make room for Michelin in spring 2012, at which time it authorized a $100,000 feasibility study, with the cooperation of Michelin and the municipality of the County of Kings, to “support potential expansion” at the 30-year-old plant.

In the meantime, Michelin has embarked on a $73 million, four- to five-year investment to expand capacity for wide-base truck tires at its Waterville plant. That expansion is expected to create about 50 jobs at the 32-year-old factory.

 The Waterville plant — which makes radial OTR tires in addition to radial truck tires — is rated at 137,400 metric tons annually and has 1,219 hourly employees.

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