Reliance on small number of companies for economic stimulation

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Economic Gardener - Jack Kyte

You may have noticed a feature article in the Chronicle Herald a few days ago with the headline “Export picture 'glum'” by Bruce Erskine. The piece serves as a bit of a primer on the state of export and trade in our province and in Canada. For those of us involved in local economic development, one can't help relating the messages in the article to our local situation.

According to the article roughly 97 per cent of companies in Nova Scotia, and in Canada, do not export. Since manufacturers and service providers that sell outside our region are the primary source of new dollars and jobs, we rely on a relatively small number of companies to stimulate and sustain us.

In this sense, we are very fortunate. Michelin is a leading exporter, province wide. Thankfully we have a Michelin plant in Pictou County. Pulp and paper and forest products like lumber have also been essential to the provincial export picture. There have been some bumps in the road for this industry in recent years but, again, we are fortunate to have Northern Pulp right here (and the Scotsburn sawmill back in action), contributing easily $3 million weekly into the provincial economy. Even jobs at the local mill have increased over the last couple of years.

We also have innovative metal fabricators in Pictou County, local business leaders who have found export markets and work hard to find more. And let's not forget our fishing sector, our growing IT sector and some unique businesses like MacKay Meters, WearWell Garments and Stright-Mackay. Add to these Velsoft, Nova Scotia's Exporter of the Year and we are in the forefront as an exporting region.

One of the goals of the Pictou County Chamber is to help local companies grow. The reality is that many entrepreneurs just want agencies, government and associations to get out of their way and not waste their time with token programs that don't move things forward and do not impact bottom lines. So there is the challenge for the Chamber and for our local municipal units, which are critical to providing effective infrastructure and smart regulations to help stimulate growth.

The Chamber board of directors believes there is leverage in bringing together our diverse group of local exporters to work together to reduce barriers to growth and facilitate more global trade. That is not to presume the Chamber itself has clear answers. But we do care. And, we believe that our exporters represent a powerful force in Nova Scotia and that we can find ways to help one another succeed.

This approached is new and will rely on some good faith by the business community to explore options. We already have the support of Nova Scotia Business Inc. to help us get started. Understanding the needs and possibilities will be the first step.

As Dr. George Cooper told us at the annual Chamber Business Achievement Awards dinner, there is a growing desire for goods and services worldwide, particularly in Asia. And the recent announcement by the federal government regarding the CETA free trade agreement with Europe is opening even more doors for us. The opportunities await.

Our vision is to someday have a unique trade mission involving only Pictou County exporters working as a team. The first step is to appreciate what we have and then sell it to the world.

Please let me know your thoughts by emailing me at jdkyte@ns.sympatico.ca.

 

Jack Kyte is executive director of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce. 

Organizations: Michelin, Nova Scotia Business, Pictou County Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada Scotsburn Asia Europe

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