‘It’s a natural succession’
Terminal project official takes over as president of Strait Area Chamber of Commerce
A senior official with the proposed Melford International Terminal development is the new president of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce.
Richie Mann is the vicepresident of marketing and government relations with the terminal project. A native of St. Peter’s, he is also a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister and MLA for the riding of Richmond.
In an interview Tuesday, Mann noted he has been deeply involved in the chamber for about a decade and is probably currently the longest-serving member of its executive, having previously held roles including first and second vice-president.
“It’s a natural succession, I guess, to move on and take up the presidency,” Mann said. “I think it’s a very good organization, it’s a very active chamber.”
The body has more than 300 members throughout the Strait of Canso area.
Mann believes it has had good success in representing the interests of the region’s business community and acting as an advocate.
“It’s an organization that I think provides good benefit and provides good information,” he said.
The Strait area, like other parts of rural Nova Scotia, is facing challenges relating to employment.
“All of our business communities and retail sectors and everything else is dependent on having stable employment and a growing economy,” Mann said. “In the Strait area, traditionally we’ve been very dependent on large industry, the pulp and paper industry and everything form oil refineries to Nova Scotia Power and others. While some of them still exist and are ongoing entities, some have been diminished in terms of employment and there’s been challenges to diversify.”
There are some potential bright spots on the horizon, he added, with the proposed Bear Head LNG project and the related Bear Paw pipeline, as well as his own company’s proposed container terminal development at Melford, Guysborough County.
The Nova Scotia Community College’s Strait Area Campus and its Nautical Institute also represent a bright spot for the region, he added. The fishery also remains a strong economic driver.
“There’s challenges, but there’s good opportunities, there’s reason for optimism,” Mann said. “I think what we’ve seen in the Strait, and in perhaps a lot of ways led by the chamber of commerce, we see more and more working together, coming together as a community, coming together as industries to really help and be there for each other.”
As for Melford, last July after almost a decade in development, they announced that SSA Marine had come onboard as an operator and the partners would proceed to the next stage of attempting to lure shipping lines.
“We’ve got investors that have been patient, that have been bullish on this and continue to be that,” Mann said. “We continue to move the ball downfield. I personally think we’re getting to a point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, and we’re extremely optimistic that something will be happening there relatively soon.”
Mann said they are getting closer to making a further announcement about the project, saying while that likely is more than 30 days away “it’s not years, either.”
“We recognize that some of the things that have to happen to make a terminal real are not within our control, they’re controlled by some global conditions or by companies and partners that are involved in the global industry,” he said.
Prior to entering politics, Mann worked at what was then the Stora paper mill in Point Tupper.