Bishop’s Falls entrepreneur awaiting provincial government approval on pair of applications
By Nicholas MercerOperations Production Resource Sector
Mark Brace figures he may soon have to hire some office help.
Only weeks ago, the young entrepreneur from Bishop’s Falls entered the Dragon’s Den and left with a $2-million investment deal for his business, Ocean Floor Granite, from all but one of the wealthy investors who appear on the CBC-TV show.
Now, his cellphone has been ringing as potential customers from around the globe have been checking in on his products made of Newfoundland black granite and Labradorite.
“I think now, after ‘Dragon’s Den,’ people are seeing the positive side of it and actually realizing how valuable that product is,” said Brace.
Recently, Ocean Floor Granite acquired the quarry rights to another black granite site near the plant that will add even more product to the business as it prepares to start making products.
As it stands now, Brace is awaiting approval on a pair of provincial government applications, one for a non-repayable small business loan and another for a marketing grant.
Pleaman Forsey, the opposition MHA for Exploits, where the business is located, said the provincial government needs to throw its support behind Brace and his business.
“The government should be stepping up now, too,” said Forsey. “You’ve got investors out of the province interested in our people, interested in our mineral and our business opportunities … and the Liberal government seems to be dragging their feet.”
The project has the capability to bring hundreds of jobs to the region and the province. Brace figures the job numbers could reach as high as 400.
The economic spinoff that could come from numbers like that is something needed in the district and the province as a whole, Forsey said.
“Right now, with the province the way it is and with our district the way it is, we need economic development,” he said.
Brace’s latest business plan was sent to the province on Dec. 18 and the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology continues to work toward approving his requests.
“There have been some good conversations in the last seven days,” said Andrew Parsons, the minister of industry, energy and technology.
He said the loan comes from the public coffers and that means there is an extra level of scrutiny when it comes to giving out loans.
“We have to look at it carefully,” he said.
Parsons said the department isn’t looking to put roadblocks in front of Brace and his company, but it has to be careful.
Still, the department wants to help, he said.
“We’re working on this as quickly as possible,” said Parsons.
Originally, Brace hoped to have everything cleared up with the province by Jan. 15, and hit the spring market for products.
After his most recent meeting last week, Brace said he is confident that while that window closed, he may see approval in the next couple of weeks.
“It was a really positive meeting,” he said. “It sounded like there was really positive support and it sounded like they really wanted to get this done.”
By Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, THE CENTRAL VOICE