ECONOMIC GARDENER – FEBRUARY 2015
A year ago, our County was shocked at the announcement that Michelin Tire was shutting down a full tire line with the potential loss of roughly 500 jobs. This was followed by the announcement of the closure of the Convergys call centre. Although Convergys found a way to remain operational, the announcements sent a clear message that we cannot be complacent in relation to the vulnerability of our larger employers to economic circumstances beyond their control.
The good news is that we do have a relatively diverse and strong economy compared to many other counties in the province. So, we can roll with the punches to some degree. But more important has been the emergence of several local initiatives with a view to offsetting the losses and strengthening our County to handle future setbacks and, in fact, to set the table for growth.
As people across the province attempt to measure the impact of the Ivany “Now or Never” Report, they should have a close look at what is happening here.
The poster child for positive change is the commitment by New Glasgow, Pictou, the County and Stellarton to move toward a new model of municipal governance. This is a courageous undertaking. It is also very complex and not without risk. If successful, it will position the new municipality (representing 85% of our local population and 92% of our local tax base) to move our region forward in a coordinated and efficient manner. The Chamber of Commerce supports the MOU process. We intend to work with these municipalities as they move forward. We will not sit back and criticize at every twist and turn, as has been the easy way for organizations like Chambers in the past. They are not alone.
At the same time the Pictou County 2020 initiative, driven by local volunteers, is gaining recognition across the province in its efforts to reach out to local citizens, identify areas where we can move the County forward and encourage action. The 2020 team is finding that local citizens want to be involved and that they have good, practical ideas for improvements. This is exactly the approach advocated by the Ivany Report. The 2020 leaders and their supporters are to be commended. Here again the Chamber of Commerce is fully behind this initiative.
In a similar manner, the emergence of the group known as Pictou County Pulse is exciting. This group of young professionals and entrepreneurs are saying “yes” to Pictou County. They are positive. They like living here and they will be making a difference in the months ahead. The Chamber is happy to partner with them. We just need to get out of their way and let them take us to the future.
Add to these initiatives the successful creation of the Michelin Development Fund in partnership with the Bergengren Credit Union and NOBL to offer a $6 million fund available as loans to help local businesses grow, the development of the East River Road business park, the continued growth of the Albion Business Park in Stellarton, the completion of the beautiful New Glasgow Academy school and you realize that we are not standing still.
Even the Chamber of Commerce has changed its approach. We are finding ways to provide value to our members through world class Business Leadership Training, the implementation of a unique Business Round Table and partnering with Pictou Landing First Nation, ACOA, Solar Global Solutions, and MacGregors Industrial Group on some exciting economic development work with great potential for the future.
It is about leadership and innovation. Look around and you will see there is no shortage of these qualities in Pictou County.