North­ern CB De­vel­op­ment So­ci­ety forg­ing new eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment plan

En­gag­ing youth seen as key to area's fu­ture

The Victoria Standard - - Local News - CAROLYN BAR­BER

The sec­ond of a two-part com­mu­nity meet­ing re­gard­ing the eco­nomic fu­ture of north­ern Cape Bre­ton took place at the Cape North Cul­ture Cen­tre on July 30. District 8 Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil­lor Norm Mac­don­ald was present, as was Ketih Bain, Mla-vic­to­ria-the-lakes, and Vic­to­ria County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer Pa­trick Austin.

North­ern Cape Bre­ton Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment So­ci­ety (NCBDS) mem­ber Rob Mac­don­ald and Ray Fraser, Chair of the Sea­wall Trail So­ci­ety, fa­cil­i­tated the meet­ing. Mac­don­ald set an op­ti­mistic tone for the meet­ing by re­spond­ing to con­cerns about sim­i­lar past ini­tia­tives fail­ing to progress.

“Not go­ing to hap­pen this time!” he said.

Fraser an­tic­i­pated shy­ness from the 21 par­tic­i­pants but what­ever hes­i­ta­tion there was quickly gave way to open dis­cus­sion. By the end of the meet­ing, sev­eral sheets of easel pa­per were filled with par­tic­i­pant in­put con­cern­ing im­ped­i­ments to eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity in the re­gion.

Points raised in­cluded a de­cline in tourism in­fras­truc­ture, ex­o­dus of young peo­ple, poor em­ployee re­ten­tion, doc­tor short­ages, school clo­sures, lack of ameni­ties, not to men­tion the harsh win­ters.

“It’s get­ting harder to be here. My age group is get­ting tired of or­ga­niz­ing stuff. If we don’t hold onto our winter pop­u­la­tion, we may as well stop the conversation,” re­marked Margrit Gahlinger of Bay St. Lawrence.

Many agreed with Aspy Bay res­i­dent Ron Nikkel that north­ern Cape Bre­ton is un­der­uti­lized for winter tourism. Out­door en­thu­si­ast An­drew Steven­son en­vi­sions north of Smokey as a “mecca for back­coun­try ski­ing” and feels con­fi­dent young peo­ple could read­ily pro­mote the ac­tiv­ity.

With as­sis­tance from Pa­trick Austin, plans are al­ready un­der­way to sup­port north­ern Cape Bre­ton’s youth pop­u­la­tion in launch­ing new busi­nesses. The hope is to of­fer busi­ness fairs and cour­ses to high school stu­dents on pre­par­ing busi­ness plans and ba­sic ac­count­ing meth­ods.

Prior to the July 30 meet­ing, NCBDS iden­ti­fied ser­vices lack­ing in the area which could trans­late into small busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties. Hair­dressers, bar­ber­shops, pain­ters, plumbers, and car­pen­ters are needed year-round and are in higher de­mand with sum­mer res­i­dents.

“The con­cept would be to en­cour­age lo­cal small busi­ness peo­ple to think of mul­ti­sea­sonal small busi­nesses to sup­port not only tourists, but res­i­dents as well,” said Mac­don­ald. “It’s seems to me one has to ap­proach a small busi­ness in this area with a di­ver­sity of per­spec­tives on what the op­por­tu­ni­ties are.”

Dis­cus­sions from both meet­ings have been sum­ma­rized into a doc­u­ment con­tain­ing “con­cerns” and “ac­tions”.

“We’re in the process of con­sol­i­dat­ing a work­ing group of in­di­vid­u­als so we can take on as many of th­ese ac­tions as pos­si­ble,” said Mac­don­ald.

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