County notebook: Lambton County to sell stock of Origin Material


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Lambton County will sell the shares it owns in a California-based biochemical company that is currently building a manufacturing site in Sarnia.

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County councilors voted on Wednesday to allow the sale of Original Materials inventory, valued at $ 600,000, and set the money aside in an economic development reserve fund.

The shares were part of a financial boost the county gave Sarnia-based Bioindustrial Innovation Canada in 2018 that included a $ 2.5 million loan and $ 500,000 that the agency funded by the government invested on Lambton’s behalf in three biochemical start-ups that it supported.

The county loan and investment allowed the agency to fully exploit federal funding.

The loan is expected to be repaid in full by March 2023.

While the county’s $ 250,000 investment in Origin Materials paid off, its shares in two other emerging companies did not perform as well.

Benefuels, a company that wanted to build a manufacturing site in the Sarnia area, has closed its doors. Comet Bio, which was also planning a manufacturing site in Sarnia, later abandoned those plans and the county’s investment future is unclear.

Lambton has invested $ 125,000 in each of these two companies through Bioindustrial Innovation Canada.

Origin Materials is spending over US $ 100 million to build its first plant in Sarnia to demonstrate its technology for producing basic chemical components from biomass, such as sawdust, for making plastics and others products.

The company said the plant is expected to employ “a few dozen” workers and said on a earnings call this month that construction was ahead of recent schedules and on track to be completed by now. the end of 2022.

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“I can’t say enough good things about the engineers, the local contractors in Sarnia, the traders and of course our project and construction management team,” said co-CEO John Bissell at the call. “They set the standard for what good is supposed to look like. “

Delayed return to in-person meetings

Lambton County Council now plans to continue holding its meetings online until March.

It has been meeting online since the pandemic restrictions began, but had decided to return in January to meet in person at buildings across Wyoming County, following about $ 12,000 in renovations to install bulkheads glass between the advisers’ offices.

Council on Wednesday approved the postponement of this return now that the provincial government says it expects to lift all public health and workplace safety rules in the event of a pandemic by March, eliminating the need for partitions.

“We would have ended up with effectively two meetings, at most, where we would have spent $ 12,000 on partitions,” said Stéphane Thiffeault, general manager of corporate services for the county.

Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber has expressed disappointment at the delay. “It would be nice to be in person for our budget meetings in early January,” he said.

The budget meeting is scheduled for March 3.

The homeless population is increasing

A recent count in Lambton County found that its population of homeless individuals and families has increased 200% since 2018.

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This was the year the county’s social services division conducted a previous census.

The new tally – carried out by the county and other local agencies over several days in June – identified 236 homeless people and families in the county.

Some 66 percent identified as having a mental health problem and 87 percent had stayed in a homeless shelter in the previous 24 months.

The new tally was demanded by the federal and provincial governments that fund the county’s homelessness programs.

The county said the updated information will also help it and community partners develop responses to local needs.

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