BUSINESS BEAT COLUMN BY FAUS JOHNSON
There has been a great deal written recently about the Ivany Report, so I’m sure that further commentary would result in a great deal of regurgitation of what has already been said, but the interesting aspects of it is how much it relates to recent events here in Pictou County. Social media has been abuzz with all kinds of prognostications about our future and what should be done, but the underlying theme to all of it is a sense of urgency on moving forward with many of the things we have only talked about in the past.
I first met Ray Ivany at a Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce-sponsored meeting when he was embarking on this project. Due to the large volume of reports and recommendations that have been done in the past and now sit on shelves gathering dust, I must confess that I was a bit skeptical about the provincial government embarking on yet another study. His presentation was crisp and even then you could detect a sense of urgency in his voice, so the results of his study did not surprise me when they called for immediate action.
Certainly our own sense of urgency has been heightened in the past week with the Michelin announcement. I was hoping to meet him again prior to my next article but schedules have not allowed this to happen.
So what is different about this report that it has created so much buzz? Well, timing is everything and the release of his report and corresponding news items that were shocking, to say the least, has created a whole new sense of urgency on many fronts that the status quo is not sustainable. Many of the issues that have sat on the back burner are now on the front burner and subjects that were considered taboo only a few months ago are now being openly discussed by both the public and private sector.
Ivany was quite clear in his report that if Nova Scotia was to move forward it would require more from the business community and less from all levels of government. Finance Minister Diana Whalen in her address to our local Chamber of Commerce stated that it was government’s job to get rid of the unnecessary red tape and regulations that hamper business from moving forward. It is also refreshing to see a task force being set up that involves the business community to come up with solutions to assist with the attraction and retention of businesses to Pictou County.
A gentleman recently called me concerned about the impact of recent events on the selling price of his home, a concern shared by many who might be thinking of retiring, downsizing or moving. I reminded him that we have the third largest population base in the province and we still enjoyed the best, on average, property prices in the province.
Yes, outward migration is a concern and it has been for quite some time but all is not doom and gloom. In a recent interview with CBC I was asked what impact recent events would have on real estate prices in the county and my response was that there is light at the end of the tunnel for those that want to take advantage of it.
Natural gas is not only coming to Pictou County but recent developments suggest that we may soon be in a position to use and perhaps export our own natural gas. The industrial base of the county was built on an abundance of coal energy in the area, so maybe we can attract new industry with this new untapped natural resource.
We will soon have a new correctional facility that will require manpower as well as local goods and services and, finally, who could have imagined just a few years ago welcoming a medicinal marijuana operation to our county!
We need to empathize with our citizens who have been affected by the recent bad news as it will have a negative effect on many but the news that Michelin is setting up a program to assist their employees as well as assistance for those wishing to set up businesses can only be seen through a positive lens. As a gentleman recently reminded me, many years ago when the last of the coal mines were shut down laying off 2,000 workers with no notice, “that we are still here.”
Faus Johnson is a graduate of Dalhousie University and the University of Western Ontario, Ivey School of Business and resides in the Town of Pictou.