Strait area businesses reshape, forge ahead and plan for growth despite global pandemic

    PORT HAWKESBURY: The region’s business and community leaders heard from panellists on how they reshaped their business, how they forged ahead and planned for growth after a year of navigating COVID-19 during the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual “State of the Strait Business Update” on March 31.

    The transition to online course delivery and the recently announced Beinn Mhàbu (Mabou Hill College) project was highlighted by Rodney MacDonald, the president of Colaisde na Gàidhlig (the Gaelic College).

    “Much like the people in this room, we all experienced a big change in what was happening in our everyday life and we certainly felt those impacts at Colaisde na Gàidhlig,” MacDonald said. “In fact, our business is students, and usually students on-site. So if you look at our business (model), its meetings, conferences of large groups, its large gatherings.”

    Usually in a typical year, he said they have 800-900 students access their programs and courses along with approximately 250 busses that visit their site, which is a key part of the Colaisde na Gàidhlig revenue stream.

    “And all of that was turned upside down. We immediately had to send students home, who were actually on-site at the time,” MacDonald said. “With that we had to pivot, and such we started to take a look at what we could do as an organization to adapt.”

    One of those things was taking a look at their opportunities online and immediately, the staff started to develop courses to continue to serve their students.

    “In fact, today online you’ll see about 150 students,” he said.

    Photos by Drake Lowthers
    Rodney MacDonald, the president of Colaisde na Gàidhlig (the Gaelic College) spoke on the college’s transition to online learning in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

    Another Strait area company looking to transition ways in which they do things, is Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP) with their windfarm development.

    Allan Eddy, director of business development for PHP, said power is an integral part of their business, and they represent about 10 per cent of the power on Nova Scotia Power’s grid.

    “The cost of power is critical to our business sustainability,” Eddy said. “A little over a year ago, we announced we were pursuing the development of a 112-megawatt wind project. When built, at this point in time, it would be the largest wind farm in Nova Scotia.”

    He indicated the wind farm has potential to represent approximately 30 per cent of their need when running at full capacity.

    “It shows the commitment of PHP to the long-term sustainable future of our business in this region,” Eddy said.

    During the building for growth panel, two municipal units also showcased what they are doing to develop their respective towns.

    Tourism Development Coordinator for the Municipality of the County of Inverness, Amey Beaton, highlighted the dozen projects under the umbrella of the banding and signature spaces project.

    Town of Port Hawkesbury CAO Terry Doyle announced the creation of Portside Port Hawkesbury, a brand new establishment on the waterfront along with an ice cream and specialty coffee establishment on Granville Street.

    Terry Doyle, the chief administrative officer for the Town of Port Hawkesbury, explained council’s focus the past two terms has been really trying to provide an environment for population and economic growth.

    “One of the first initiatives made to move the progress of the waterfront was the creation of the Customs House,” Doyle said. “One of the focuses now is on the Marine Innovation Centre, located at the old creamery building.”

    The CAO said while they are undertaking a feasibility study, which is expected to see results later this spring, a design workshop that occurred in August asked the community what they wanted their waterfront to look like.

    The community identified retail, streetscapes, connected and expanded trail system, and recreation opportunities; the primary priority identified by the waterfront committee was dining.

    Doyle then announced the creation of Portside Port Hawkesbury, a brand new establishment on the waterfront utilizing the Station House from Danny Ellis, a long-established restaurateur from Sydney.

    The indoor-outdoor facility will feature daily live entertainment and 14 taps for craft beer.

    Doyle also explained another establishment is in the permit process for an ice cream and specialty coffee shop along Granville Street.

    The State of the Strait’s keynote speaker Ken Shea, president and CEO of East Coast Credit Union spoke on Nova Scotia’s economic recovery.

    East Coast Credit Union President and CEO Ken Shea was the State of the Strait’s keynote speaker providing an update on Nova Scotia’s economic recovery.