Economist Tom MacGuire and research associate Amy MacKenzie of ATN Consulting Inc. offered a presentation to Inverness Municipal Council about economic and population growth last week.

PORT HOOD: Councillors in Inverness County got an overview of an economic and population growth strategy currently being worked out for Cape Breton during their committee-of-the-whole meeting last Thursday.

“You can’t have one without the other,” said economist Tom MacGuire, one of two presenters from ATN Consulting Inc. “We want to build on a solid foundation so that the prosperity frame work will move forward.”

He was speaking of the way economic growth interacts with population growth.

ATN Consulting Inc. was tapped by the Cape Breton Partnership to flesh out the best way for the island to experience both economic and population growth. With MacGuire was research associate Amy MacKenzie.

Their visit to council was part of the outreach and engagement process that’s part of the research going into the growth strategy.

MacGuire noted in the Municipality of the County of Inverness there is a good bedrock from which business can grow. He noted agricultural-based businesses are doing well, and both the fishing and tourism industries have potential for growth. Golf tourism is also something growing in the municipality, and there seems to be an entrepreneurial culture. He mentioned that half the businesses in the municipality are small business operations.

Councillor Jim Mustard noted that the hospitals in both Cheticamp and Inverness are attracting young doctors, which goes to show Inverness County is attractive for young professionals.

Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie mentioned the county trail system as being world class.

Island-wide, the success of Mi’kmaw communities, creative island branding, and real success in immigration are bright spots, MacGuire said. He also referenced Cape Breton University and Unarna’ki College as success stories on the island.

Prospective opportunities, MacGuire said, include growth in the tourism sector; port development; upcoming major capital projects; growth in seafood, ocean training and research; and innovation in foundational industries.

However, there are barriers and risks involved in growing the population and economy. Cape Breton suffers from a labour shortage, MacGuire said, but added some people would argue that, considering that lots of skilled labours are looking for jobs. There is global competition as well, he said.

Anyone wanting to help out ATN Consulting Inc. in their research is asked to take an on-line survey that will help shape the strategy being created at: www.capebretonpartnership.com/growthstrategy.