by Paul H. J. Cormier, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Integrated Business Solutions Group – Le Groupe de solutions d’affaires intégrées.
In July of this year, after waiting for some considerable time in the hopes of hearing that the Municipality of North Grenville had acquired the Kemptville College, some local business people, grouped under the name of the Integrated Business Solutions Group (IBSG) offered Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario and OMAFRA Minister Jeff Leal an alternative solution. They offered to purchase the entire site and to that end, placed a bond of $3.5M on the table. The office of Minister Leal contacted Ray Clément, the President and Chief Executive Officer of IBSG to verify the validity of the offer; Mr. Clément confirmed it. IBSG did not wish to make its offer public at that time, pending some kind of announcement from the Municipality, which had been termed as “pending” for several months in a row.
In November, 2017, the Municipality of North Grenville finally issued a low-key announcement that an agreement “in principle” had been reached with the Province of Ontario. The IBSG sent a second letter, this time to Minister Leal with a copy to the Premier congratulating the Province for having reached the agreement in principle with the Municipality of North Grenville. Out of courtesy, IBSG provided Mayor David Gordon with a copy of this letter which repeated the offer to purchase the College site if the conditions of the acquisition were not met for any reason.
It is important to note that the two offers made by IBSG to the Province had nothing to do with the Municipality nor were they in any way part of the Municipality’s efforts to acquire the property. In point of fact, the IBSG offer to negotiate a purchase was made to ensure that the College remained in local hands and preserved as it currently is, i.e. as a heritage agricultural complex and with no dismantling of either its land or its buildings.
In their first letter to the Premier and Minister of Agriculture, IBSG stated that their goal in proposing an alternative option was to establish the site as a go-to place in Ontario for agricultural-environmental innovation. They mentioned that the site contained several buildings whose future was currently doubtful, even though some were in excellent condition: these could be easily converted into Vertical Farms and also be used for testing and developing other agricultural technologies. The mixed land of the KCAT could continue to be used for test crops aimed at improving the ways in which traditional agricultural and forestry practices could further protect the environment for future generations. The academic buildings could be preserved and enhanced to serve an international clientele of students already interested in learning about alternative farming, particularly but not limited to students from such countries as Africa and China. Current uses would also be respected.
In their second letter, in addition to their congratulations, IBSG stated that while the consortium remained open to other options, its principals believed that an outright purchase of the entire site by the private sector would benefit all parties, i.e. the Province, the consortium itself as well as the Municipality (with badly needed tax dollars). With the financial capital to develop, maintain, and operate the site, IBSG felt that their prevailing interest in the fusion of agricultural practices with those of environmental humanitarian stewardship would bring new business, employment and credibility to the North Grenville community.
In its 22 November 2017 edition, The North Grenville Times published an article entitled, The College – A Done Deal? For some unfathomable and mysterious reason, the Municipality spent considerable time and energy in issuing a press release mentioning the article, then denying contents that didn’t exist.
Facts are facts:
the private sector (IBSG) has had contact with the Province on the purchase of the college site;
Mayor Gordon was sent a courtesy copy of a second letter to the Province by IBSG providing a back-up for purchase should the Municipality’s, or the Province”s commitment fall through;
and IBSG’s offer to negotiate a purchase of the college was in no way related to the Municipality’s negotiations, which we all hope will bear fruit in the fullness of time.