PORT HAWKESBURY: The level of local cooperation and the natural advantages of the Strait of Canso were common themes, as members of the region’s business community gathered for a general update and a pep talk.

The Strait Area Chamber of Commerce (SACC) held its latest “State of the Strait Region” Business Update in the morning and early-afternoon hours of April 28 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Bear Head Conference Room. The conference included three groups of industry panelists, focusing on such topics as industrial development, storefront and property investments, and exports in tourism, agriculture and oceans, along with a lunchtime keynote address from Glenn Squires, chairman of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) and chief executive officer (CEO) of Pacrim Hospitality Services Incorporated.

Bear Head LNG strategic and regulatory affairs advisor Paul MacLean, a member of the conference’s industrial development panel, praised the local port’s attributes and its geographical location, particularly in comparison to similar shipping centers in the northeastern United States.

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“Boston Harbour, with its LNG project, you’re looking at 12 to 14 hours just to get that out of there,” MacLean remarked. “[The Strait of Canso] gives us access to the North Atlantic.”

Photo by Adam Cooke
Jakob Abrahamsen (standing, left), general manager of Svitzer Canada’s Nova Scotia operations, was one of four presenters on the industrial development panel who spoke at the “State of the Strait Region” Business Update on April 28 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Bear Head Conference Room. Other panelists included (seated, from the left): Port Hawkesbury Paper development manager Marc Dube, Bear Head LNG strategic and regulatory affairs advisor Paul MacLean, and Maher Melford Terminal vice-president of marketing Richie Mann.

While the deep-water, ice-free harbour was “obviously” a key asset to industrial development panelist Richie Mann, vice-president of marketing for Maher Melford Terminals, Mann also praised the “tremendous” support the private-sector project has received from all corners of the local business community.

“When we have brought potential partners in, we’ve taken them not just to the site to see what’s going on, or given them an air tour, but we’ve taken them to Port Hawkesbury Paper, we’ve taken them to NuStar Terminals, we’ve taken them to the Nova Scotia Community College, where they can hear first-hand the services and the types of employees and the cost of operating in the Strait of Canso,” Mann declared.

In responding to a question from fellow conference panelist Chris van den Heuvel, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Mann noted that he has already spoken about future food-shipping possibilities in an informal conversation with Port Hawkesbury Paper development manager Marc Dube, who also sat on the industrial development panel.

“If you’re bringing product containers into Melford and the Strait of Canso, you’re going to see some consolidation,” Mann predicted.

“When the goods are taken out of the ocean-going containers, the 40-foot containers, they’re going to be put into deep-freeze and moved into specific locations and specific stores, and it’s going to result in empty containers in the Strait of Canso. So, all of a sudden, we have a much cheaper form of transportation, because those containers have to get back to their origin…What it does, it opens up markets for export opportunities.”

Other presenters at the Friday morning panels included Waycobah First Nations Chief Rod Googoo, former premier and current CEO of The Gaelic College Rodney MacDonald, Lobsters ‘R’ Us owner-operator Blaire Martell, Port Hawkesbury Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Terry Doyle, and Dundee Hills Vacation Village project shareholder Cam Samson.