By Cecilia Nasmith
By this time next year, what local residents have known for years as the Welcome Produce Market will be taking shape as a booming Dancing Bee Inc. operation, thanks to a $65,000 Rural Innovation Initiative Eastern Ontario grant announced on the site Monday morning.
John Hayden, manager of enterprise programs at Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation, was representing executive director Wendy Curtis and team lead Judy Selvig in making the announcement.
The initiative was launched this spring with funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
Operating in Port Hope for nine years, Dancing Bee Inc. Has become a market leader for commercial and residential bee-keeping equipment, medication, safety gear and training. The grant announced will support the purchase and installation of a new innovative extraction line to allow an increased volume of honey production.
As the only provider in Ontario with this technology, the company is gearing up to meet increased demand and to take advantage of new sales opportunities.
Innovation is a key word, Hayden noted, and the definition he gave is that is is essentially a novel solution to an unsolved problem that is successfully commercialized. Usually – but not always – it is technology-based.
“It is what our CFDC is home to, to support and make it possible so that together we can build the industries of the future and build our local economy,” Hayden said.
Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP Kim Rudd said the presentation the company had made in its application was a real winner. With the passion, creativity and engagement she saw, she said, “I knew I would be coming back and making an announcement.
“This is more than just creating a dynamic start-up, more than just the pursuit of entrepreneurialism. This is helping to preserve one of the most important environmental partnerships Planet Earth has ever known.”
In recent years, as the partnership has become more fragile, she added, supporting it has become more vital than ever.
“We must keep in mind that this is one of the longest human/nature relationships, so important because it provides critical pollination of our fruits and vegetables – and, of course, they provide that liquid gold, honey.”
This kind of support does take a team, Rudd said, and the Federal government's funding is one piece of the puzzle. She also thanked the CFDC, which is at the forefront of so many game-changing initiatives like this one.
“Everything that comes in is looked at and, if there's a possible way to get it done, they do it,” she said.
Dancing Bee Inc. owner and chief executive officer Todd Kalisz said they were standing on the location of what he is planning to make into the biggest bee-keeping centre in Canada.
The Port Hope apiary operation is the largest in Northumberland, Kalisz added, not only producing honey but offering bee-keeping support in such areas as equipment. They have three wood shops and import quality steel for such items as tanks and clarifiers. Their equipment is in markets throughout Canada, and Rudd offered to connect them with Export Development Canada to seek out new ones.
Northumberland honey producers probably turn out 40 to 50 tons a year, and Rudd pointed out that this kind of production takes place throughout the riding.
“This grant really is a true investment that's going to pay back, creating a lot of jobs when we expand. There will be a real impact,” Kalisz said, predicting as many as 10 additional year-round jobs.
Kalisz foresees a bee-keeping mecca on the Welcome site that will attract interested visitors as well as others in the industry.
“Every beekeeper who drives past on the 401 will want to stop here,” he said.
“We are sincerely grateful for the vote of confidence this grant represents. The team has worked incredibly hard, surpassing many milestones to get to this point. From there, we expect it to get even bigger and better.”
Kalisz shared a few other milestones they must achieve in the interim.
A hydro meter has been installed near the property, which the Port Hope Fire Department must sign off on, and they are installing sewage and septic infrastructure with all the permits that entails (not to mention a storm-water management plan that must be approved).
Ministry of Transportation approvals must also be obtained, given the proximity to the Highway 401 corridor, not to mention Northumberland County approvals, given their location on a county road.
They hope to break ground next spring and, over the winter, can work inside the old produce-market building doing renovations.
Funds for the Rural Innovation Initiative Eastern Ontario were approved in Budget 2018, Rudd said, a total of $15-million over two years. The Dancing Bee Inc. grant is the first one in this riding.