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Pictou County real estate experts offer perspectives on effect of Sobeys layoffs on market

Police were present near the Sobeys in Pictou Monday morning, Nov. 20.
Sobeys in Pictou. - Sueann Musick

PICTOU COUNTY—People in the local real estate industry have some mixed opinions on the effect on the market in the wake of Sobeys implementing 100 local layoffs.

Susan Green, a broker and the owner of M.B. Green Realty, said that if Sobeys handles its layoffs the way Michelin did, when it laid of 500 local employees in 2014, "there will be no significant impact in the market," and there won't be any dramatic increase in vacant homes in Pictou County.

Green said the way Michelin handled its layoffs in 2014 constitutes a benchmark for how to handle a large layoff with minimal upheaval for people who have settled down and own property in the community.

"When looking at Sobeys, another major valued employer, I'm trusting the professional manner that Michelin displayed in how they handled the issue will be similar with Sobeys," said Green.

With Sobeys' plan to provide support through severance and tuition to retrain laid off employees for future career paths at NSCC, Green believes the transition for former Sobeys employees could be as smooth as it was for Michelin's 500 layoffs.

Green said Michelin received an award from the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce for its graceful handling of its layoff situation.

Sherry Blinkhorn, owner of Blinkhorn Real Estate, doesn't have as sunny a vision, as far as employment is concerned. However, she says the impact of the layoffs implemented by Sobeys on the real estate market probably won't be noticeable until the New Year.

Blinkhorn believes that at the beginning of 2018, people will have finally let the news of the layoffs settle, and will begin implementing whatever plan they have to deal with the situation.

"A lot of people were on pins and needles for a while, thinking and wondering if it was going to be them – they're taking time to look at their options," she said. "From what I can gather, some people were lucky enough to get severance packages."

Blinkhorn said many are likely reluctant to jump immediately into another job opportunity – and are still giving themselves space to look at other options.

"What happens will affect us more in the new year – that's when we'll see if more properties come up or sale," said Blinkhorn. "I would hate to see some people leave Pictou County for work – especially when there are rumblings of opportunities coming to Stellarton. Hopefully something will materialize out of that – some people will pick up those jobs."

Unfortunately, that won't be everyone. Of the people laid off, many are employees who have been with Sobeys for over 20 years. And, inevitably, some families will be uprooted from Pictou County, encouraged to do so by opportunities in other areas.

"I've been hearing firsthand from people that there's no opportunity for them here, anymore," said Blinkhorn.

Even though Sobeys is offering to help people get retrained through a partnership with NSCC, "that's not going to work for some of them – especially the people 50 years and older, who feel that's not a real option for them," said Blinkhorn.

"There are people who've dedicated their lives to Sobeys, having moved here specifically to work for Sobeys, who are now feeling they have to uproot because of lack of opportunity," said Blinkhorn. "They're very sad because they'll need to leave Pictou County and that is one of their only options, because of their skillset"

That being said, Blinkhorn noted that Pictou County is largest county outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality, and has a real estate market that tends to rebound. This is in part due to the fact that there are a lot of industries in the area, both medium and large, that can "pick up the slack," when it comes to layoffs in the area.

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