STELLARTON – Although no concrete plans were made at a meeting discussing Michelin layoffs and the Pictou County economy at a meeting Friday morning, political leaders discussed steps toward a better direction.
The meeting at the Museum of Industry brought together three levels of government and business leaders in the community to look toward finding solutions to lost business opportunities in the area.
One decision made was to create a team of business and community leaders to develop solution ideas, which will be led by Sean Murray, president and CEO of Advocate Printing and Publishing Company Limited.
“At this point in time, I think it’s best that the discussions that we had were preliminary. It was a free and open discussion that’s going to help us put together a team led by Sean and work together and hear from all of our colleagues from municipal, provincial, and federal as to what some of the solutions are going to be and to work on an action plan,” provincial Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Michel Samson said.
“The message clearly from us today is that we want the solutions to come from Pictou County,” he said.
Samson said the idea that a new company will come in and replace 500 lost jobs is a long shot, and instead suggests focusing on growing small and medium-sized businesses.
Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane echoed that sentiment.
“I think we agree that Nova Scotia’s economy is going to have to move forward with small and medium sized businesses. We know that they are the backbones of making sure we live in a healthy and safe environment.”
Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan said there are a number of things her department can do to help displaced workers from Michelin, including helping with employment insurance claims, resume building, and retraining.
“The other thing we can do is more of a global thing, and that’s making sure Pictou County’s workforce is ready for any opportunities that come forward.”
In terms of what municipal governments can do to keep businesses going, Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes said towns have to try to keep commercial tax rates down.
As well as trying to encourage business, they have to work with the existing industries, Hawes said, naming Aecon Atlantic Industrial Inc. in Pictou as an example.
At this point, the fabrication company employs up to 160 people in Pictou, Hawes said.
In order to help out the business climate, he looks to a change in governance for the area.
He said something needs to be done.
It not only affects workers, but the entire climate of the county, including businesses that could see a decline in sales and a tougher housing situation that’s already a “buyer’s market,” Hawes said.
“The right thing to do for Pictou County is to all come together. The taxpayers would benefit. There would be one voice and one voice only. It doesn’t matter where something new starts up in Pictou County. What’s good for one is good for all. Plain and simple,” Hawes said.
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