Depending on whom you talk to a loan to Petrolia Discovery will either be a fresh start or a disaster.
The Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation has given the historic oil attraction a 10-year loan to help get the Discovery back on strong financial footing. The attraction has had a number of financial setbacks in the last decade and sought out the corporation’s help this spring.
While the amount of the loan has not been disclosed (SLBDC website says it loans up to $250,000), it is meant to help with current operations.
The corporation will work with Discovery to improve its business practices. One of the requirements of the loan is that the Discovery Foundation seeks further partnerships and sponsorships.
Martin Dillon, the head of Petrolia Heritage, is skeptical about the plan. “Our official stance is we’re delight they have found new friends…they basically chased everyone else away,” he says adding a loan is not going to make things better.
“Getting into significant indebtedness ….is not the answer to the question,” says Dillon
“If they can’t bring it forward and they default on the loan, where are they then?
“The town has bailed them out in all the other messes, I’m not sure that they’ll be there next time…All that (loan) does is prolong the inevitable.”
Dillon is still of the opinion that the town should run the site and says since municipalities are considered charitable organizations by the Canadian Revenue Service it would be a simple process for the foundation board to pass it to the town to hold in trust for the community.
Dillon adds Petrolia Heritage is still “reviewing its options” to see if the group can do anything to preserve Discovery.
Petrolia Mayor John McCharles says despite the loan, the town is still willing to help at Discovery. “If we could help them, we certainly would; it is not that, they got a loan and we won’t help them, the question is what do they need to survive,” says McCharles noting the Discovery Foundation has yet to respond to the town’s offer for help.
“If the town was going to be involved it would be almost mandatory that there would be someone (from the town) sitting on the board.”
But McCharles is hopeful the loan from the business development corporation will help. “The only comment I would have is this is excellent news for Discovery. Hopefully that puts them on track for future successes…hopefully that brings them back to life… this might be the break they have been looking for; maybe this is going to work.
“If it is a good business plan more power to them.”