Industries closing leave gaping hole

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We’d already been informed it was coming, still it’s emotional to see the end of a stalwart industry in Pictou County shut down, as with Trenton’s Nova Forge this week.

Making the demise harder to take is the history of this company – and others like it – the association with supplying munitions for the world wars and with the shipping industry. But far more sad, as always, is the loss of livelihood for local workers, particularly after witnessing the loss of similar one-time industry giants in the area.

The question always arises with the shuttering of such plants: what do we replace it with? Or another: why doesn’t the government do something?

As many have pointed out, the loss of certain industries is inevitable, even ones that held a long, highly respected foothold, that once practically defined this county’s industrial identity. Factors include the high cost of fuel and often the competition in a time of “free trade” from countries with lower wages, benefits and labour standards.

Having various levels of government “invest” or, we might say, throw money at the resulting gaping hole has proven time and again no more than a temporary solution. If current conditions present disadvantages for such industries in the area, why flog a dead horse?

We often hear about the promise of latching on to knowledge-based technologies, something apparently easier said than done.

But on that note, and the idea of government support: we sometimes hear proposals by the province to offer incentives, for example, to graduates in the medical profession to get them to stay in the province.

Consider the young people coming out of technical programs at the Nova Scotia Community College and some of our universities. In some cases they’ve already developed ideas for products or services by the time of graduation. If there’s a case for incentives or tax breaks to locate here, to set up companies and to hire people, that would be public money well spent.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Community College

Geographic location: Pictou County

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Recent comments

  • treehouse john
    February 14, 2013 - 13:16

    agree with previous commets.

  • Local Business
    February 10, 2013 - 13:51

    The government investing money in a natural gas pipeline to help Pictou County industries such as Northern Pulp, Michelin, Maritime Steel, DSTN, Sobeys head offices, grocery stores and Nova Forge would not be throwing money at a dying industry. To be clear, the forging industry is not dying. A lack of progressive thinking by politicians in Nova Scotia has killed it. We need some NS politicans with business sense. When are we going to demand that our politicans start making plans for our province beyond their 4 year tenure? A pipeline would generate new jobs in the construction industry, open up positions for natural gas technicians and pipefitters, and allow local companies to lower costs by switching to a more economical energy and heating sources. Win win win. No losers there. New Glasgow is a major centre in Nova Scotia. Why is natural gas not already here?

    • johnny smoke
      February 11, 2013 - 08:47

      I see your point and it is a valid one. But why should I as a taxpayer have to carry the cost of a pipe line, when the gas company would receive the profits of such an endeavor? .We are already feeling the effects of the government being in bed with Emera, I would think that would be enough to turn off any other venture into the realm of the utility field.Let's put the onus where it belongs, with the gas company, it wasted no time building a line to the Halifax area, was this for profit or was it for show? Time will tell.

  • Proud Former Nova Forge Employee
    February 09, 2013 - 15:52

    Thanks for the article mentioning Nova Forge, the more attention we can bring to its closure the better. I feel allowing it to close is a huge mistake and I feel responsible to comment on this article because I am a proud former employee of the Forge who will be needlessly out of work because of the closure. Please allow me to comment on this article and give my opinion. I do agree the forging of steel at this site has a long history, over 120 years I believe. I do not agree with the opinion that we are a “one – time industry giant”. As a matter of fact we were still an industry giant up until the fire. Please don’t forget Nova Forge has the largest forging press in Canada and the second largest in North America. We had the capability to manufacture very large parts indeed. We made steel forgings up to 110,000 pounds for many industries including: oil & gas, mining, shipbuilding, electricity generation and manufacturing to name a few. We very recently manufactured parts for the largest hydro electric project in the world and we were hoping to be involved in the manufacturing of the shafts for the new shipbuilding project for our military in Halifax. These shafts will now likely be manufactured outside of Canada. The article asks the questions regarding the shuttering of such industries “what do you replace it with” and “why doesn’t the government do something”. These are very good questions indeed. Again, please allow me to offer my opinions. First, as far as replacing such industries, I believe it’s absurd to ever think we could or even should. Manufacturing is what made both Canada and the U.S. the envy of much of the world. Manufacturing has been the backbone of both countries growth. I think that to assume the new jobs with knowledge based technologies can replace the old manufacturing jobs lost to the third world is naive. There are not nearly enough new jobs created to replace the old jobs lost for starters. Of course we must encourage the growth of new ideas but never at the expense of what has made us great. We should never put all our eggs in one basket. We can’t all be doctors, lawyers, and computer programmers – its factories that provide employment to the masses. We have to be aware that the third world countries also do all the white collar jobs much cheaper than we can here in North America as well as the blue collar work. This brings me to the second question posed by this article: “why doesn’t the government do something”. In the case of Nova Forge I believe both the government and the owners of the company have tried. I just don’t think they have tried hard enough considering the magnitude of what could be lost. We have heard that both sides were very close to reaching a deal and many of us feel that with just a little more work a mutually beneficial compromise can be reached. So when it comes to what can governments do, I agree with the article that throwing money at the resulting gaping hole has proven time and again no more than a temporary solution. The authors of this articles next sentence almost answer their own question; “If current conditions present disadvantages for such industries in the area, why flog a dead horse”. The answer is to change current conditions. Let’s face it, unfortunately there is going to be cheaper labor in other parts of the world for many years to come for all jobs. So let’s work on the things we can change. On a provincial level, one of the biggest things our government can do is to bring the Nova Scotia natural gas to the companies in Nova Scotia that could benefit from it instead of pumping the majority of our natural gas out of our province. Thankfully the province has started this work and some companies will benefit but at the current rate of progress many more will suffer and close if efforts aren’t increased. On a federal level I think one of the biggest things the government can do is to try and protect industries that are strategically important to our country, I think with the largest forging press in Canada we qualify. Thankfully we have seen our federal government do this for some industries and I hope that they will recognize our niche in this great country and champion our cause as well. Our federal government can also help by continuing to provide incentives for companies to modernize their technology; I believe there are grants for improvements in technology and innovation. Someone helping our company access programs like this would be a huge boon to our business. I agree that throwing money at a problem doesn’t help but strategic investment can. I think the owners of our company aren’t looking for a hand out but a hand up. I think that they were looking to modernize our facility so we could be more competitive. This brings me to my final point and the part of this article that infuriates me the most, the statement that “the loss of certain industries is inevitable”. I think a defeatist attitude like this hurts us all. It’s easy to sit back and watch someone else’s business close, it doesn’t really hit home until it’s our own business or that of a loved one that closes. Any time we see government try to help any industry other than our own we think what a waste. We have to realize that at some point all our businesses could use some help to be more competitive. The current owners of Nova Forge have been a good employer; they have never asked for a cent and have pumped millions of dollars into the Nova Scotia economy. I think if we help them now they can continue the legacy that was started over 120 years ago and do world class work while providing good jobs in small town Nova Scotia. Thank you for reading my ideas. Please contact your local MLA’s and MP to voice your support.

  • Johnny smoke
    February 09, 2013 - 14:12

    Not much left to cover is there? The sad fact is that this was what the economist like to call a smoke stack industry. Sadly for what ever reason one by one these former stalwarts are falling like ten pins in a bowling alley. I wish I knew what the answer could be to save these one of a kind operations. One thing is for sure, we are still turning out of our trade schools and community colleges students who are trained in the crafts that these business's employed, with only McGregors,& Hawbolts left as well as Martime steel on the ropes and a few small shops , many of our graduates will have to look else where for employment, sort of like shooting yourself in the foot, is it not?