Optimism on the menu at SRDC’s annual general meeting
Ian Edwards recalled a time not that long ago when all the major communities on the Burin Peninsula bustled with activity each day.
The chairperson of Schooner Regional Development Corporation’s (SRDC) board of directors told stakeholders gathered for the organization’s annual general meeting in Marystown Wednesday evening he believes it can happen once more.
“I don’t think that day is that far away again.”
Mr. Edwards suggested Schooner is carving out a new niche for itself in economic development – one that places an emphasis on collaboration with the organization’s stakeholders including government agencies, industry and towns.
He noted all communities on the peninsula have a number of good possibilities for growth that would serve to benefit the entire area.
“ It’s all about collaboration because if anyone of these events or activities take place, it’ll be good for the whole region.”
He specifically pointed to the federal government’s proposed plan to implement a shipbuilding strategy, the Hebron project and Vale Inco’s nickel processing plant in Long Harbour as other initiatives that will likely impact the peninsula.
He noted he had made an observation during the time he has spent at the Long Harbour site lately for his own Marystown-based consulting firm.
“If you walk around the site in Long Harbour, there’s more people there from the Burin Peninsula than you can shake a stick at. I’m really serious. There’s a lot of people from the Burin Peninsula and more coming every day.”
Mr. Edwards identified aquaculture as an area he would like to see the organization pursue in the immediate future. He noted enhancing the industry on the peninsula could reap huge rewards, as evidenced by the St. Alban’s and Harbour Breton regions, where there isn’t enough people to do the work.
“Most of that’s related to the aquaculture industry – millions and millions and millions of dollars. There’s a lot of opportunity there.”
As he makes way for a new chairperson, after serving his two years in the position, he parted with a reminder that economic development often occurs when people take a step outside their own comfort zone.
“If we’re really comfortable, we’re really not challenging ourselves – and that’s each and every one of us has to do that – and you have to be innovative. You have to take challenges head on. Sometimes you’re going to get a little knock and get pushed aside. Things are going to happen, not always the way you want, but you have to get up and go again.”
SRDC development officer Ellen Picco was the guest speaker for Wednesday’s event and gave an overview of the Eastern Suppliers Development Alliance.
She explained Schooner has joined forces with the Discovery Regional Economic Development Board in the Clarenville area and the Avalon Gateway Regional Economic Development Board to create the initiative.
Along with provincial and federal funding agencies, partners also include chambers of commerce for Marystown, Clarenville and Arnold’s Cove.
Mrs. Picco indicated the group aims to increase economic growth and diversification, while mitigating negative perceptions and enhancing awareness of opportunities in manufacturing, fabrication and the supply sector of the oil and gas industry.
She noted activities would focus chiefly on opportunity identification and business development relevant to the Hebron project.
Ms. Picco acknowledged in the past all three areas have worked separately to achieve those goals.
She indicated recently economic and business development organizations, as well as government departments, have realized a joint approach in promoting the capabilities of the regions to industry and enhancing industry opportunities within the local business community will create greater synergies and economic growth.
She explained “Many of the small and medium-sized businesses in this region have the perception that ‘I’m too small to bid on those big projects.’ Well, the activities of the alliance will assist in mitigating this negative perception and move barriers that negatively impact breaking into the supply chain.”
Mrs. Picco noted the industry’s importance to this region is undeniable and pointed out a great number of residents from the area work in the industry. She acknowledged the opportunities for spin-offs and other benefits are enormous.
“By coming together, the alliance has a larger base of businesses to partner with, and; by representing a larger group of businesses, the alliance achieves economies of scale and benefits that would not be feasible through a unilateral approach.”
Everett Farwell, vice-chairperson of SRDC’s board of directors, gave a ‘Year-in-Review’ during the meeting.
The organization is presently without an executive director, following the departure of Paul McGinn, who has relocated to Nova Scotia.
Mr. Farwell called this an “exciting time” for the region and suggested there is a lot of optimism all the hard work in recent years will result in a “groundswell of economic and social benefits for the Burin Peninsula.”
He said the possibility of an “industrial revolution” of sorts exists for the region in the next decade.
He cited a revitalized fishery supported by a growing aquaculture industry, more mineral discoveries, a growing agriculture industry, megaprojects utilizing a graving dock at the shipyard in Marystown and wind energy among the puzzle pieces necessary.
Mr. Farwell then took stakeholders through the numerous activities and initiatives the organization has spearheaded or participated in over the last year, walking through the various strategic priority sectors including fabrication and manufacturing, natural resources, fishery and aquaculture and tourism.
He noted SRDC has adopted a performance-based funding model to assist the organization in prioritizing and evaluating the success of its activities. He indicated a professional development seminar has been scheduled later this month to familiarize directors and stakeholders with the new model.
The past year represented the second of SRDC’s three year Strategic Economic Plan.
Mr. Farwell indicated a meeting with regional stakeholders would take place next month to gauge the level of implementation of the current plan and to begin preparations to put together the next multi-year strategy.
He concluded “Schooner and its many stakeholders have laid the foundation for economic growth and sustainability. It is Schooner’s promise to continue to work with key stakeholders to achieve its mandate.”