Fortune continued ‘turning the page’in 2009, says mayor
Three-time Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell suggested 2009 represented a continued “turning of the page” of sorts for his town.
After struggling mightily following the debacle that was the demise of Fishery Products International, and its run in the community during the middle of the decade, Mr. Penwell indicated the situation finally seems to be pointing in an upward direction.
The Mayor, who has been a member of the council in Fortune since the mid-1980s, again took the mayor’s chair following last fall’s municipal elections. He sees the year ahead as an opportunity to build on the positives.
“ The town is sort of stabilized in terms of the outmigration. There’s people coming back to the area and we’re seeing more of the young people either staying around or returning. So, that’s nice to see.
“In terms of housing, certainly we’ve seen more new housing starts in 2009 and, again, planned houses for 2010, than we’ve seen in perhaps eight or 10 years in Fortune. So, that’s an extreme positive.”
Of course, 2009 was far from a perfect year.
The fishery is still the major eco- nomic driver in Fortune and the industry took a beating during the last 12 months.
Following the departure of Fishery Products, Ocean Choice Internat iona l decided to open up a salt fish processing operation at the facility in 2008, which was doing quite well until around mid-2009, when it hit a bit of a bump in the road thanks to the past year’s harsh global economy.
Still, the mayor indicated the company was able to persevere though the year. He said council is hoping and expecting a better year for the fishery in 2010.
From a municipal perspective, Mr. Penwell indicated the town was successful in its application to make infrastructure upgrades for the Pinchmarsh Road area. They had initially planned to begin the project last fall, but delays mean the work will start this spring.
“ We’re looking forward to that for next year and hopefully to get approval to do water, sewer and pavement on a couple other streets, as well.”
On the tourism side, the mayor noted the Fortune Head Interpretation Centre and Ecological Reserve have managed to capture some of the tourist market, heading for the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.
He said the town is in the process of adding to the centre, with hopes of partnering with the provincial government to expand services. He suggested a potential major marketing campaign throughout Atlantic Canada in 2010 is a possibility.
“It’s our hope that will certainly be a major initiative for the town in 2010.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Penwell recognized the Town of Fortune, like many other rural communities in the province, continues to face the challenges of an aging population and the problems of maintaining and improving services with a small tax base.
He noted, of course, 2009 will also be remembered for the devastating Cougar helicopter crash. The aircraft, which was carrying workers to the offshore oil field, went down last March.
Among the 17 victims were Fortune natives Burch Nash and Wade Drake. Robert Decker of St. John’s was the crash’s sole survivor.
“ That was a very tragic thing for everybody involved and particularly for the Town of Fortune.”
Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell