KETCHIKAN - The Ketchikan Gateway Borough is applying for a $5 million state grant to buy the Wards Cove Cannery.
Borough Manager Roy Eckert said Wednesday the borough planned to apply for two state fisheries economic development grants, one to purchase the Wards Cove Cannery and another, also for $5 million, to build a new community cold storage facility in Ward Cove.
Eckert said the borough would lease the cannery to a private operator.
Two groups have approached the borough about leasing the facility, according to Dick Adams, executive director of the Ketchikan Economic Development Authority.
The two groups, which he wouldn't identify, are interested in more than just canning salmon, according to Adams. Both have expressed interest in a frozen block system, where salmon would be frozen in blocks of ice and shipped to the Far East.
They also have suggested they would like to process the salmon in pouches. He said the two groups are a co-op in the early stages of inception and a new corporation.
The $5 million grant would pay for the purchase and retooling of the Wards Cove Cannery. Adams said the most recent asking price for the facility was about $1.2 million.
Wards Cove Packing Co. announced late last year that it was shutting down all nine of its salmon processing plants, including the original Wards Cove Cannery that opened in 1928. Several of the other facilities have been sold.
The cold storage project envisioned by the Fisheries Sector Group, which was formed last April, would have capacity of 8 million to 10 million pounds and would cost about $9.5 million, said Fisheries Sector Group member Leigh Gerber.
He said other grants the borough is seeking could help pay for the remainder of the project. Gerber said the group is hoping to build the new facility in Ward Cove and estimates the facility would create 14 jobs.
Both grant applications are due to be filed with the state by Monday. The Fisheries Economic Development Matching Grant Program is intended to assist fishing communities affected by the downturn in the salmon fishing industry, according to the state.
About $13 million in grant money is available this year.