From petrochemical to biochemical
April 22, 2014, Sarnia, Ont. – Once the cornerstone of Canada’s petrochemical industry, the border town of Sarnia has had to think smart to avoid the devastating impact of industries packing their bags and leaving town.
By Andrew Macklin
April 22, 2014, Sarnia, Ont. – Once the cornerstone of
Canada’s petrochemical industry, the border town of Sarnia has had to think
smart to avoid the devastating impact of industries packing their bags and
Sarnia’s potential downfall began in the early 2000s with
the announcement that Dow Chemical was abandoning its Canadian operation and
consolidating its assets in the American market.
What could have been a serious blow for the community’s
economy instead served as a necessary wake-up call, forcing local officials to
come together to explore ideas for how to continue as a thriving industrial
community. The result was a commitment to compliment its still-strong
petrochemical industry with the growth of a biochemical sector.
The successful growth of the biochemical sector in Sarnia is
the result of a collaborative effort to an extent rarely seen on the Canadian
landscape. Stakeholders from government, industrial and educational sectors
came to the same table to unite with a specific goal in mind, and to take the
necessary steps to achieve that goal.
Bioindustrial Innovation Canada has worked diligently to
continue to bring the stakeholders together to grow the industry. The Board of
Directors is a direct result of the network they have built to create a
thriving regional biochemical industry, with financial, government,
technological and educational support all available within the confines of the
community of just over 70,000 at the southern tip of Lake Huron.
The Western University Research Park sits as the virtual
headquarters for this biochemical growth, housing the BIC along with the Sarnia
Lambton Economic Partnership Board and three pilot plants from companies that
have been attracted to join the growing industrial hub. Lambton College sits
just across the road, now positioned to provide education targeted at producing
bioindustrial operators and technicians within the next 18 months.
With BioAmber now in full construction of its succinic acid
facility, Sarnia has now taken its place as a potential go-to location for
bioindustrial companies looking to build their next operation. With the
resources available thanks to the strength of the community partnerships in
place, it surely will not be the last bioindustrial company to locate here.
For the full story on Sarnia’s emergence as one of Canada’s
growing bioeconomies, be sure to check out the May/June edition of Canadian