BANTIGONISH: The Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) has officially closed its doors.

As of March 20, no partnering municipalities remained signed-on to move forward under the umbrella of the economic development agency, which resulted in the official decommissioning of the ESREN on March 31.

Seven staff members, including their CEO John Beaton, will be issued lay-off notices.

The closure comes after the year-long back-and-forth between ESREN and the Town and County of Antigonish, the Town of Port Hawkesbury, and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough , as well as St. Mary’s.

In March 2018, all five municipal partners filed their intent of notice to withdraw on March 31, 2019. But since the beginning of the year, both the town and county of Antigonish re-signed with ESREN for another year, before re-establishing a withdraw date in 2019.

Guysborough has full confidence in their own economic development department to continue the work on objectives outlined in the municipal strategic plan, Port Hawkesbury wanted a better representation of their geographical location and decided to apply to the Cape Breton REN, while both municipal partners from Antigonish are still deciding their future. And most recently, the Town of Mulgrave indicated they wouldn’t be joining either.

Glenn Horne, ESREN transition committee chair, told The Reporter that the partner municipalities have appointed an interim board of directors, comprised of the Chief Administrative Officers of each municipality, to oversee the dissolution of the REN.

“Its sole purpose it to oversee an orderly dissolution,” he explained. “The interim-board will be meeting with ESREN CEO John Beaton in the near future to review all active initiatives and contracts to determine appropriate next steps.”

Horne said the interim board will meet with Beaton for a temporary period of around six months.

The wind-down process has now begun which will look at asset management and will also include looking at redirecting or realigning current projects with other organizations, or finishing them before formally closing.

A representative from the Department of Municipal Affairs declined The Reporter’s request for a full interview but indicated they respect the decision of the ESREN’s municipal partners and will continue to work with them to support the next steps.

With the decommission of ESREN, Horne said the economic development in the active business community that surrounds the Strait area, will continue to be assisted by organizations and institutions like the chamber of commerce, post-secondary institutions, as welll as municipal, provincial, and federal governments and agencies.

“We expect these organizations will continue to assist with business growth through various projects and collaborations.”