METEGHAN RIVER, N.S. – Twenty-five years ago A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, was faced with a choice – scale down or diversify.
But then scaling down was never a real choice, said managing director Gilles Theriault, because it would have had a negative impact on the local and regional economy.
And now the company continues to grow. An announcement was made at the shipyard on April 11 that will provide a huge boost to the economy and the company. A.F. Theriault, the province’s oldest and largest family-owned shipyard, is forging ahead with a $6.65-million expansion of the business that will add jobs and double work capacity.
A.F. Theriault intends to construct a new marine railway, purchase new equipment and undertake needed office upgrades to accommodate the projected increase in production. Once complete, the work will allow the shipyard to build and service larger vessels.
“Our capacity has reached its limit,” said Theriault. “Soon we will be able to say we can carry out refits on vessels over 1,500 tonnes.”
Theriault said the company is excited to be moving forward with this expansion. He said work on the office expansion has already started and the process of studying the engineering for the new slipway has also begun.
The expansion work is expected to add 40 new skilled manufacturing and engineering jobs to the existing workforce of 120 people that is drawn from the Yarmouth, Clare and Digby regions and beyond. There will also be construction jobs associated with the project.
A.F. Theriault is getting help as it moves ahead with its ambitious expansion.
West Nova MP Colin Fraser announced Wednesday that the federal government is investing $2.315 million. The repayable loan contribution is being made through ACOA’s Business Development Program.
“We can see from the work going on here today how busy this enterprise is,” said Fraser. “But to continue to expand and become even more competitive, A.F. Theriault is now engaged in doubling its capacity.”
The company is also the first recipient of funding through the newly-created Innovation Rebate Program from Nova Scotia Business Inc. The shipyard has been approved for a $1,536,877 rebate, which is 25 per cent of the eligible project costs. It will receive this rebate after it completes the work.
Laurel Broten, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc., says the program was developed to support capital investments in businesses.
“When companies invest in their businesses they make them stronger, they make them more globally competitive and they embrace innovation. That’s something we want to see happen,” she said.
“We know that large investments like today, $6.65 million being invested by A.F. Theriault, that’s not a small decision,” Broten added. “The fact that the province will come in at just over $1.5 million after it’s built, after it’s done . . . it’s an incentive and supports that investment, but it is also a safe investment for the province because the work has to be done before they get our money.”
Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson said Premier Stephen McNeil asked him to bring two messages to the announcement, one being to congratulate A.F. Theriault on being a world-class company in rural Nova Scotia.
“The second message . . . was he personally wanted to thank the Theriault family for believing in this company, for believing in this community and for hanging in there and doing what they’ve done to grow this company,” Wilson said, adding the company also has a tremendous team to support and carry out the work it does.
A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. has seen four generations of the Theriault family come through its doors since starting in 1938.
Clare Deputy Warden Nil Doucet noted the company has seen and endured many changes over that time and has shown a remarkable ability for increased growth and innovation with its product offerings that continue to expand. And still, he said, as things have evolved, the company has always remained faithful to its core values and focus on quality, safety and capability.
“For the Municipality of Clare, A.F. Theriault is one of our largest employers and champions for innovation and rural economic development and a leader in corporate citizenship,” Doucet said, closing his remarks on a comical note by taking a jab at Gilles Theriault and the NHL team he cheers for. “I’m sure you’re glad they never made it (to the playoffs) because you wouldn’t have time to watch them anyway,” Doucet said to laughter in the room.