PORT HAWKESBURY: Strait area business and community leaders came together last week to celebrate some recent successes and share goals for the future.

The Strait Area Chamber of Commerce (SACOC) hosted its annual State of the Strait Region Business Update at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre on March 21.

“We decided to start doing this business update several years back, and basically it’s an opportunity to showcase some of the accomplishments and opportunities that exist in the Strait region business community,” said Amanda Mombourquette, executive director for SACOC.

The morning featured three discussion panels with speakers from the local business community.

“We’ve got some really cool presenters, including a really great panel on cannabis opportunities and risk management,” said Mombourquette. “Our headliner is David Burton from Headland Cultivation Company. They are looking at establishing a production facility in the region.”

Photo by Melanie Holder
The morning’s events included a discussion panel on agricultural and aquaculture developments in the Strait area. Chris van den Heuval of the Inverness-Victoria Federation of Agriculture (left) spoke on the importance of eating local and protecting Nova Scotia farmlands. This was during the annual State of the Strait Region Business Update last week at the Civic Centre.

Other highlights included a discussion on agricultural and aquaculture developments, which featured Jeff Lee, of Sam’s Point Oyster Company based in Mabou. Lee discussed the opportunities and challenges in the local oyster industry and shared some ideas for the future, including a potential marine centre in Mabou.

“This would be a multi-purpose facility that would include a sailing school, a watershed research and development station, oyster processing facility, hatchery and oyster bar,” said Lee.

Contributed photo
Michelle Theriault presented some recent projects in aquaculture being carried out by Université Sainte-Anne Petit de Grat Campus and the Marine Research Centre.

Michelle Theriault of Université Sainte-Anne Petit de Grat Campus and Marine Research Centre discussed the institution’s recent projects, as well as some untapped opportunities in local aquaculture including oyster, sea scallop and seaweed farming, as well as land-based aquaculture.

“I think there’s a lot of potential in the Strait for aquaculture. It’s kind of an underdeveloped industry for us,” said Theriault. “We’re well positioned in the Strait to take advantage of some of this.”

Photo by Melanie Holder
The annual “State of the Strait Region” Business Update on March 21 included a discussion panel on local transportation infrastructure developments. Pictured here are (from the left): Rose Paul of Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, David Morgan of Celtic Air Services, Keith Flynn of Martin Marietta, and David Oxner of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

Transportation and infrastructure was also a key theme during Wednesday’s event. David Morgan of Celtic Air Services Ltd. reported on some upcoming projects for the company, including the Cape Breton Air Show scheduled for May and plans to connect local attractions by establishing a helicopter tour company.

Rose Paul of Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation discussed the process that led to the Paqtnkek Interchange Project and its potential economic impact on the community. The project will provide improved access to reserve lands that were previously disconnected by the Trans-Canada Highway.

Photo by Melanie Holder
Keith Flynn of Martin Marietta delivered news about some big upcoming projects at the Porcupine Mountain Quarry.

Keith Flynn of Martin Marietta announced an investment of $50 million over the next five to six years to modernize equipment at the Porcupine Mountain Quarry. He said the upgrades will increase capacity by approximately 50 per cent.

The importance of transportation and infrastructure was also highlighted by the keynote speaker Joyce Carter, chief executive officer for the Halifax International Airport Authority. Carter is originally from L’Ardoise.

“She has come back home to tell us about the importance of having a strong airport and transportation corridors for our economy,” said Mombourquette.

Over 105 people were in attendance at Wednesday’s business update. Mombourquette says this type of event helps bring awareness to positive work that is being done in local industry.

“You look at Gateway Hyundai here, and you like at all kinds of new developments going on in Inverness County. There’s a lot going on,” she said.

“I think we’re really turning a corner and changing the narrative on doing business in Cape Breton and I think that’s the whole purpose of this event.”

Contributed photo
Pictured are (from the left): Amanda Mombourquette, executive director of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce; Richie Mann, president of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce and vice-president of marketing and government relations for Melford International Terminal and Melford Atlantic Gateway; and Joyce Carter, president and CEO of the Halifax International Airport.