ANTIGONISH: Municipal councillors in Antigonish County have joined their counterparts from the town in putting their commitment and support back into the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) – for the time being.
During last Tuesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, councillors voted to remain in the REN for another year.
Owen McCarron, the county’s warden, told The Reporter in a phone interview last Thursday to move the partnership forward in a successful manner, improved communication and deliverable outcomes were important to council.
“The county, after a lot of deliberation, we felt it was important to give the REN another opportunity,” he said. “We just felt over the last couple of years, communication wasn’t necessarily the best, and we outlined some of the things that we figured should be addressed in terms of providing economic development opportunities for the county.”
Addressing a challenge from the past, McCarron explained the province hadn’t come up with its funding component fully – which has now been resolved. He said council is currently identifying goals that will be very measurable and will give the REN an opportunity to complete tasks that are measurable.
“We’ll do a check-in, of course through the year, but by December, we’ll sit down and evaluate how we feel the REN has done for this upcoming year,” he said. “That’ll give us a better feeling if the REN’s living up to its side of the deal. If it is, then the hope would be to continue on, if it doesn’t, then we’ll exercise our option at that point.”
McCarron expressed the continued partnership as a one-year trial period as it will allow the REN to understand the importance of making sure they hit some of the targets Antigonish County feel are important.
“At the end of the day – we’re accountable to taxpayers so we are making sure we’re getting good bang for our buck.”
John Beaton, ESREN’s chief executive officer, said they are very pleased Antigonish County is continuing on with the REN.
“Antigonish County makes up a significant geographic and economic portion of the region and as a result we see it’s critical that they are a part of the REN going forward,” he told The Reporter Monday morning. “Needless to say we’re very happy.”
Beaton said they made some adjustments to their approach because the REN is styled to do regional economic development, which would result in regional projects that involve more than one municipality.
“What we realized was municipalities often see the real benefit in a localized approach. So what we’re trying to do is a bit of a hybrid model here,” he said. “It’s more focused on specific local initiatives, as opposed to regional ones, although we still have to do regional benefits as a result of our agreement with the province. We have focused more on local projects as well that respond and align well with municipal priorities.”