Talking economic development at the council table in Inverness

Carla Arsenault, the president and Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Breton Partnership, visited Inverness Municipal Council earlier this month.

PORT HOOD: Carla Arsenault, the president and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, visited Inverness Municipal Council earlier this month to spread the word about all the latest happenings with her group.

She began her presentation by noting the Cape Breton-Unamaꞌki Economic Growth Strategy is the Partnership’s economic plan for the region which was officially launched on October 2.

“We plan to have a second draft of the economic development plan by the end of March, and as soon as we have that, we’ll be developing a communications strategy around that and sharing the information with you,” she said.

A second initiative she reported on was a Welcome to Cape Breton (welcometocapebreton.ca) Web site which serves as a one-stop landing page to welcome people to the island. The Web site grew out of the job offers received by management of Farmer’s Daughter County Market in Whycocomagh, which offered free land to newcomers to the island, so long as those new arrivals were willing to work at the market.

Based on the interest generated by Farmer’s Daughter, creating a welcome site was a no-brainer.

“The site talks about everything if you want to live, work, study, visit or invest in Cape Breton Island,” Arsenault said. “The other big project we launched this year was a Web site called entrepreneurcb.com,” she said. “We’ve always been looking for that one-stop shop for entrepreneurs across the island. We all know there are organizations out there that offer support, but this site has everything you need, if you’re looking to start your business, exit your business, or anywhere in the middle.”

Working to draw newcomers to the island is a top priority for the partnership, Arsenault said, noting her group hosted six different immigration events with a reach of 394 stakeholders.

The partnership did two studies on barriers to women in business, one on First Nations women and one that was more generalized.

Arsenault said she’s been working on the issue of improving internet service to the island, and that effort led her to conversations with Bell. A meeting is slated for April with the communications company.

Lynne MacLennan, economic development officer for the partnership, also offered some comments. She noted that since meeting with council one year ago, she and the partnership have visited with 95 businesses throughout Inverness County, including 11 start-ups, seven business expansions, and 14 people exploring entrepreneurs.

“Last year, we held the first-ever Inverness County Job Expo,” MacLennan said. “That was a great success and now we’re planning our 2020 event, which will take place Tuesday, March 24, at the Inverness Fire Hall.”

Additional job fairs will take place at Cape Breton University on March 26 and at the Gaelic College in Victoria County on March 31.

Attracting new residents to Inverness County is something she’s working on with the Inverness County community profile. A municipal-wide survey on housing is in the works, and business advisory sessions are being hosted across the island.

“We’re very excited to report that the Port Hood Innovation Hub is moving forward,” she said, noting that she recently met with Development Nova Scotia and an architect in relation to the project. Essentially, the project would see some of the municipal building reconfigured to allow locals work spaces with high speed internet.

“We’re hoping the plans will come forward this month and then we’ll go to tender,” she said.

MacLennan and Arsenault profiled several other initiatives and programs with the partnership, including a business planning advisory service headed up by Shannon MacNeil.

“Shannon has worked with 10 different businesses across the county on developing business plans and, let me tell you, she loves getting to this side of the island,” MacLennan said.

Creative economy development officer, Erin Flynn, who works on helping creative sector businesses grow, will host a Creative Minds: Artists’ Stories event on April 9 at Route 19 Brewing in Inverness (5-8 p.m)., MacLennan added. Creative Minds: Artists’ Stories is an opportunity to bring together individuals who work, create, and thrive in arts and culture to share their stories and give one another a glimpse into what it means to be an artist in Cape Breton – Unama’ki.