Port elevators feed northwestern agricultural renaissance: Richardson Terminals in Thunder Bay mark 100 years on the city's waterfront.

Author:McKinley, Karen
Position:Thunder Bay

Over the last century, there has been a constant presence on the Thunder Bay waterfront as an employer, landmark and, more recently, a driver of change in local agriculture.

The towering grain elevators of Richardson Terminals have the rare distinction of being under the same ownership for 100 years.

"We are still in the same location and the same company, while others have closed, amalgamated, or changed hands," said Gerry Heinrichs, plant manager for the terminal.

The Thunder Bay Richardson Terminals, also known locally as JRI, consists of two elevators side by side: one on Marina Park Drive and the other on Shipyard Road, located in the north end of the city.

It is one of four terminals owned by JRI located in Canada. The others are in Hamilton; Sorel-Tracy, northeast of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River; and Vancouver.

The Thunder Bay Terminals are the furthest inland of the company's port elevators, connecting Western Canada to the Atlantic Ocean, and are regarded as major hubs for shipping to the United U.S., Mexico and South America.

This summer, it celebrated the centennial with a family-friendly party for employees past and present, including the commemoration of an inukshuk, quarried from local amethyst-studded granite, in a small park next to its Marina Park Drive Terminal.

Heinrichs said the elevators themselves have a lot of history, with decades of infrastructure and upgrades layered on each other, as well as several generations of workers that have come and gone.

History is everywhere on the grounds, from the giant concrete James Richardson and Sons motif on the main walkway on the Marina Park Drive elevator to the decades-old gangways and doors alongside state-of-the-art cleaning machines and loading systems.

Their day-to-day operations have stayed largely the same for those 100 years. Grain products are transported, cleaned, graded, inspected for hazards like mould and gravel, stored in elevators and loaded onto ships bound for domestic and international markets.

Over the decades the port has faced numerous challenges, including radical changes in transport and a decline in business in the port as a whole.

But Richardson turned those challenges into opportunities, positioning itself to become a stronger and critical component of the region's economy.

The company's business model changed dramatically in 2014.

The federal government eliminated the Canadian Wheat Board, which had regulated when farmers could harvest their...

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