PORT HAWKESBURY: A local economic development organization has unveiled new plans for the development in the Strait area.

At the regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council, John Beaton, CEO for the Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) delivered an update of plans for the development of the Strait of Canso.

“We wanted to position the Strait of Canso region as the number one area for investment and port-related business,” said Beaton. “Because of the way we’re structured, all the municipalities are close or they border on the Strait of Canso, so we see that as a potential opportunity.”

After the Strait Area Mayors and Wardens Committee passed a motion in December 2016 to pursue port development opportunities, the ESREN partnered with the Cape Breton Regional Enterprise Network and formed a working group with other organizations including Nova Scotia Business Inc., the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce.

The working group has brought together over 30 private sector businesses to discuss opportunities in the Strait area.

“We also started observing what was happening in other competing ports, in terms of having marketing materials and a solid marketing strategy, and we thought as a group that there are big opportunities here in the Strait of Canso that we should better position ourselves for,” said Beaton.

In November 2017, the group brought together its stakeholders and selected a five-kilometer focus area around the Strait of Canso. They also identified six main goals to aid in the development of the port. Goals for the region include maximizing economic opportunities, making information easily accessible to all industry stakeholders, implementing a focused strategy for business recruitment, attracting new investment and reducing barriers to streamline economic growth.

In addition to consulting with local businesses to develop programming to meet their needs, Beaton said the group has developed a detailed work plan that includes a unified marketing strategy for the Strait of Canso.

“We want to have a voice that’s unified right across the strait for marketing. We’re not just saying it’s a deep water port. It also has all these other assets that best position it,” said Beaton.

Beaton also hopes to establish a full time position to market the Strait of Canso as an area for investment through activities such as attending trade shows and reaching out to international businesses

“The work we’re doing is up to a five year period, so the initial work is all of the background looking at the studies, and talking to businesses,” Beaton said. “We’ve also built the value and mission statement of our organization so we know what the focus is.”

Beaton noted that over 88 per cent of stakeholders support the proposed development plan.

Following last week’s council meeting, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said she was pleased with the plans for the Strait of Canso.

“I thought it was a really great plan. It has some action items and some clear go forward pieces,” she “It’s great to see some action being taken.”