Bridging the gap to New England
published on page C1/C2 on March 13, 2006
NB wood products group sets up trade centre in Mass.
By Nina Chiarelli Telegraph-Journal
South Canal Road in gritty Lawrence, Mass. is where
abandoned mill buildings go to die.
It's short stretch of road dotted by empty warehouses
and long-idled textile mills. It's practically right
off Interstate 495 that links northern New Englanders
in this town near the New Hampshire border to their
more prosperous southern cousins in Boston.
South Canal Road certainly isn't the first place that
comes to mind when thinking about gleaming new buildings
and freshly constructed homes. Yet.
But Troy Donahue, owner of Miramichi Timber Frames Inc.,
thinks it won't be too long. He helped renovate one
of the long-vacant textile mills on South Canal Road,
turning it into the South Canal International Business
Center, and 90,000-square foot business center on the
banks of the Merrimack.
Those are his company's frames holding that new addition
Those are his hours of labour greeting customers as
they walk through the door. And those are his wooden
floors in some of the centre's offices.
"It's the right place to be at the right time. We couldn't
do this on our own," he said.
The Business Center is the brain child of local developer
and lawyer Art McCabe, who sees more than empty warehouses
and rundown mills in Lawrence.
It will hold a 3,000-square foot storefront for New
Brunswick Wood Products Group, a non-profit association
that represents the province's specialty and value-added
wood producers. Besides office space, the centre will
also hold manufacturing, warehousing and distribution
Under the store name Artizan Design Centre, which will
be on play on both the words artisan and the American
'center', the store will house products of 15 participating
New Brunswick companies, and employ two staffers.
Mr. McCabe hails from Andover, Mass., just one town
south. Like Lawrence, Andover was once very prosperous.
Both fueled New England's textile industry two centuries
ago when immigrants from around the world landed in
Massachusetts looking for work and a better life.
And now Miramichiers are doing the same. So are other
New Brunswickers; owners of the picture province's valued-added
lumber companies, who believe that Lawrence's renaissance
- and its short commute to Boston - can help their bottom
Mr. McCabe said he believes Lawrence is on the cusp
a rebirth, one that will see gentrification projects,
a housing boom and lots of new construction.
"The goal is to help foreign companies coming into the
States, to make sort of a soft landing in the States
and be able to service the market place all from one
place," he said.
"It's not really a question of seeing whether business
will work. It's a question of providing a cost-effective
option for already-successful businesses to expand."
For just $5,000, the price couldn't be better for Mr.
Donahue, who's only been in business for three years.
Most of his business comes from commercial and residential
construction within New Brunswick. This is a chance
for him to expand his business into the lucrative New
"We did this to get exposure to the market down there.
It gives us a chance to show them our wares," he said.
"It's a real good value for us."
Fred Nott, president of the Wood Products Group, said
he sees this as an opportunity for New Brunswick companies
to either increase they exports to the market, or break
"There's a lot of potential in Lawrence," he said. "Most
of our guys make products related to the building and
renovation industry, cabinets and doors and flooring
"We're hoping to attract the community of architects,
designers and property developers in that Merrimack
Valley area. This will be a more direct route for them
to that higher end client."
Very often, it's hard for smaller family companies to
get store-front attention in distant markets because
of the cost of rent, storing product and samples, and
hiring staff. This move will see all 15 companies participating
able to share resources.
Artizan Design Centre is prepared, if things go well,
to expand at the South Canal Business Center, too, Mr.
Jeff Goode, vice-president of business development for
Mass Development, the public-private economic development
agency of the State of Massachusetts, said he believes
the Artizan Design Centre will do very well.
"You know," he said, "when the tide comes in, it floats
The storefront will launch its grand-opening on March
21, with local officials, company representatives, and
Business New Brunswick Minister Kirk MacDonald expected