By Michael Souza
PBN Staff Writer
The planned return of fish processing to what long has been known locally as the Point Judith Fishermen’s Cooperative in Narragansett is more than a real estate transaction to community leaders and local fishermen, who have seen regulations and recession take a bite out of their business for the last few years.
It’s a sign of hope for an industry in transition but still vital to the health of the local economy.
Seafreeze Ltd. of North Kingstown will purchase and rehabilitate the former Slavin Point Judith Co. plant on State Street. Seafreeze currently leases a Quonset Point facility from the R.I. Economic Development Corporation. The EDC helped ease the way to negotiating another lease for the building on the Galilee dock, according to the state.
“This is great for the port, great for the state and great for the fishermen,” said Richard L. Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fisherman’s Alliance. “Slavin hasn’t run for a while and was owned by a big New York company. This business will be Rhode Island-owned,” he said.
For years the only large processor in the port has been The Town Dock. With Seafreeze moving in, the two will sometimes compete for the same fisheries, a competition that Fuka believes will be healthy for everybody.
“It’s an extremely important waterfront footprint that should be continued to be occupied by the commercial fishing industry,” he explained. “When you lose a piece of waterfront footprint it means you’re losing industry.
“In Galilee that’s important, because losing industry creates anxiety and that’s really something we don’t need,” he continued. “It’s also important because it’s an in-state company leasing state-owned property, and that shows the state is encouraging in-state companies to flourish.”
The details of the transaction are typical for many facilities in the port of Galilee. The state owns the land and maintains a lease with the building owner. For a transaction to occur, the building owner sells to a new entity that must then negotiate a lease with the state. A closing on the sale was expected this month.