Arvida, Industry and Resources

The creation of Arvida is based on industrial operations of unprecedented scale inspired by the region’s unique potential and remarkable dynamics of the aluminum multinational. The ideal features of the chosen site can be summed up in three points. Transport infrastructures, advertised since 1911 to American investors by Julien-Édouard-Alfred Dubuc (a well-known local industrial) such as the Port-Alfred deep-water port near which he built a pulp-and-paper mill town of the same name; the potential for hydroelectric development so far supporting the region’s development through industrial typical facilities (Val-Jalbert, Kénogami, Riverbend, Port-Alfred, etc.), had not yet found takers requiring enough energy to use the great hydraulic reservoir of Lake Saint-Jean to its full potential; and, finally, the geological features of the soil (anorthosite), allowing Alcoa to consider implementing a plant equipped with new extraction processes entirely self-sufficient, for all of its resources and operating assets can be found on site.

Naturally, Arvida isn’t the first planned industrial town of the region, and neither is Arthur Vining Davis the first entrepreneur to dream upon the phenomenal hydropower potential of the area; they nonetheless represent its synthesis and culmination. At a time when hydropower exploitation was becoming a full-scale industry, William Price, another industrial established in the area, had recently teamed up with James Buchanan Duke, the American tobacco magnate, to set up an hydropower project from the Grande Décharge (Alma) and Lake Saint-Jean, taken over by Alcoa and Alcan, bringing Arvida to life as well as the subsequent industrialization of the Saguenay region.

The industrial facility that blossoms 450 miles north of Boston, as the little known area is perceived in 1925 on the American and world stages, testifies to the magnitude of the project. There is not only a 40-potrooms smelter (most house less than five at the time), but also a refinery extracting alumina from bauxite through an extremely energy-hungry process, which usually justifies for a very large number of smelters.

Just as the multifunctional and integrated character sets the model city of Arvida apart, the integrated aluminum activity enables the Alcan smelter to rise to the top of the WWII production by providing the greater part of the aluminum supporting the Allied war effort as well as 90 % of the Commonwealth’s production. Arvida then became a “secret town”, protected by an extensive contingent of men and weapons. While maintaining its role in the regional development, notably by prompting the construction of the Bagotville military base, the 1920’s utopia experienced a significant growth in the 1940’s, with an industrial production exceeding 340,000 tons as anticipated in the initial design. 

  Official City of Saguenay website