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Obstacles still impeding central Newfoundland granite plant startup

Bishop’s Falls entrepreneur Mark Brace has been hoping to get his granite plant in operation for some time. However, a lack of funding support from the provincial government has been hampering progress, he says.
Bishop’s Falls entrepreneur Mark Brace has been hoping to get his granite plant in operation for some time. However, a lack of funding support from the provincial government has been hampering progress, he says. - Adam Randell

Operator says provincial government funding needed to move forward

BISHOP'S FALLS, N.L. —

Mark Brace stands next to a large panel box at his granite processing facility.

It’s the main driver of the entire operation, located at Jumpers Brook, just outside of Bishop’s Falls.

The three-phase power supply has been snipped. Copper thieves, the 26-year-old says. 

Shortly after taking over the 25,000 square foot facility in 2017, Mark Brace said copper thieves started cutting out the main sources of the plant’s three-phase power supply. He didn’t have insurance at the time and, as a result, the building needs to be rewired at a cost of about $250,000. - Adam Randell
Shortly after taking over the 25,000 square foot facility in 2017, Mark Brace said copper thieves started cutting out the main sources of the plant’s three-phase power supply. He didn’t have insurance at the time and, as a result, the building needs to be rewired at a cost of about $250,000. - Adam Randell

They had been stripping the 25,000-square foot shuttered facility not long after he obtained the rights to it two years ago.

As a result, Brace said, the building needs to be rewired. Along with the replacement of other damaged property, it’s a cost he estimates to be in the range of $250,000.

The bill falls on him, as he was in the process of having insurance in place when the incident(s) occurred.

It’s been part of ongoing setbacks since Brace took over the operation.

He already has an undisclosed amount of money invested into the project and tried to secure a loan to get the business into operation. He even approached the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. It was all to no avail.

His ongoing hope has been the provincial government, but it’s been slow going.

“I’ve tried every government department and MHA that I can,” he said. “It has the potential to help grow the local economy, but I just can’t get the support of my own government.”

Working on file

Exploits MHA Jerry Dean told The Central Voice he’s been working on Brace’s file for the past two years because he sees value in the operation.

He’s even attempted to help mitigate mineral licensing issues that arose in the past.

In a previous article with The Advertiser, now The Central Voice, Brace voiced his concern over “red tape” preventing him from taking over the mineral licenses of the quarries.

At that time, another owner, who is in good standing with the province, held the mineral license rights.

The Department of Natural Resources stated Brace had an agreement for surface rights to access and use the property, but does not have the right to explore and mine dimension stone mineral.

Currently, Brace said there are 107 headstones ready to be engraved and there’s enough product stocked to process stone for three years.

“It’s more than enough to get this operation on its feet,” he said, adding it would allow him to go into business without having to go into the quarries. His aim is to start with 26 employees.

The biggest hang up now, however, is the funding to restore power to the operation, Brace said.

Dean said the provincial government has received a funding application and it’s in the process of being reviewed.

“We’ve met with him on numerous occasions, and given advice as to what documentation and applications, and all of the pertinent and necessary procedures required,” he said.

“I’m certainly confident, all of his requests were addressed in a timely and appropriate matter.”

Dean couldn’t say how long the review process takes or if Brace would be successful.

“I’m holding out hope and aspirations that the criteria will meet all the requirements … and some kind assistance for Mr. Brace (can be arranged),” he said.

“… I’m looking forward to sooner rather than later hearing something on that, and I’m hoping it’s going to be positive news for Mr. Brace, which would be positive news for the area, for our government and the province.”

adam.randell@thecentralvoice.ca

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