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Municipal upgrades could help struggling Pictou county business area

PICTOU COUNTY – In the late 1990s business owners along the Trans-Canada Highway were concerned that potential plans to re-route the highway alongside the Salt Springs business area in Pictou County would result in businesses shutting down or moving away.

History would prove them right. There are approximately seven businesses along the highway that stretches between Alma and Salt Springs, Nova Scotia. There used to be 40 when highway traffic passed through, and the owner of a local farmers market said upcoming improvements could help bring businesses back.

Jeanette Hermanson of the Green Thumb in Alma said she just received word that the county will add water and sewage connections, which she hopes will attract more businesses to the struggling area.

“We just signed that, and they will start in (the next few months),” said Hermanson. “We’re doing well here, but it’s a shame to see what happened.”

When the highway was re-routed, she said, businesses started pulling out, one by one. There used to be service stations there, as well as restaurants and other stores, but most found they couldn’t survive without the excess highway traffic.

The Green Thumb was able to survive, she said, because it was already well known in the county and it’s a more specialized business. But Hermanson laments on what happened to the Alma-Salt Springs area.

“I realize that these were gas station and restaurant jobs, but they were jobs,” she said. “I hope we can create more opportunities here in the area because this county is a great place to do business.”

In the meantime, business owners hope their investments in new signs pointing to the business park will encourage travellers to veer off the highway and through the area. Hermanson said she and other have spent a lot of money in the last few years keeping those signs up, and they have no choice but to keep them in place.

Pictou County executive director Jack Kyte said he wasn’t around when the highway issues took place, but he can sympathize.

“It’s never good to see businesses shut down but hopefully things can improve there,” said Kyte. “Businesses around the rest of the county seem to be doing well this year, so we’d like to see that extend that to everyone.”

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