This economic zone has a population of 23, 330 which encompasses 51 communities from the South West Coast to Port au Port Peninsula all the way to Highlands. Some communities include Bay St. George South, Port au Port Peninsula, Burgeo and Ramea/Francois/Grey River. The total rate of migration is -1, 735 or -6.3%. These numbers are heavily concentrated in the age range of 15-19 at -36.1% and 20-24
at -18.6%. The labour force activity for the region is 9000 with a participation rate of 47.4%, an unemployment rate of 29.9% and an employment rate of 33.2%. The education levels of the region range from people having a degree or higher (7%) to having less than high school (49%).
Primary and secondary manufacturing is a major contributor to the economy of this zone and there are several operations which have a large impact on the business community. Abitibi Consolidated is the single largest employer in the zone with approximately 1,100 employees (including the woodlands). However, difficulties have arisen in recent months due to considerable downsizing and layoffs which have occurred in the company.
Some of the other economic drivers in the region include Wholesome Dairy Limited in Stephenville, which is providing the first Newfoundland manufactured yogurt and cheese products. As well, the Coastal Growers greenhouses in Burgeo harvest some of the freshest tomatoes in the province. Atlantic Minerals Limited, located in Lower Cove on the Port au Port Peninsula, occupies 2,900 acres of land and employs upwards of 50 full and part-time staff. Turf Point in St. Georges is another deep water port in Bay St. George that has a significant contribution to the zone. Purchased by Western Logging Limited in 1997, Turf Point has shipped over 500,000 tonnes of magnetite for the Hibernia project, shipped aggregates to various ports along the eastern seaboard, and gypsum to ports in Ontario.
Some of the activities outlined in our report for 2003-2004 have been completed and will be removed from our work plan. While we continue to work on an individual basis with several companies, we are presently moving forward with our Business Retention & Expansion project as outlined in our work plan in September of 2004. Initial meetings have been held and leadership and task force teams have been put in place. An employee has been hired and we have a completion date of December 2005.
We are working with the local chamber of commerce to deliver this program in conjunction with other partners who have provided funding. The Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development have provided funds for an employee and related costs through the LMDA agreement and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency have provided funds to hire P.J. Gardner Institute to assist with the questionnaire and with the evaluation of data and completion of a final report.
Tourism has a good deal of potential in our zone. The opportunity we have identified is the lack of development of the resources we have, and the opportunity for industry players to work together to develop the industry.
Efforts have been made in the past to grow tourism in our area; however, the efforts have met with limited success. The Festival Coast Tourism Association has been trying for some time to grow the industry but have always faced the challenge of limited resources and spent more time chasing funding than working to develop tourism.
The Association has been involved with the Western Tourism Partnership since its inception. This group is looking at marketing the entire western region and has a greater chance of success than one zone or group working independently. However, this organization has been facing the same problems as the Festival Coast Tourism Association, that being the lack of resources to move ideas forward. We are optimistic that funding will become available in the near future to put a business plan in place. This would enable us to set a clear direction with objectives and time lines for delivery identified.
Statistics gathered at the local tourist information centre, which is operated by the local chamber of commerce, are alarming to say the least, with tourists visiting the centre at an all time low in 2004. One of the reasons for this can be attributed to the physical structure and location of the chalet on the Trans Canada Highway. It has been recognized by industry and government that the facility and location must be addressed. We are committed to working with the chamber and industry players to establish a state of the art tourist chalet at a location that is conducive to tourist traffic visiting.
It has also been recognized that key to tourism development is a more active role by those who have the most to gain - the businesses who rely on the industry. We are committed to bringing all industry players together over the next year to address this issue. Our message will be clear, if you want to grow your industry you must be active members giving some of your time and financial resources to make it happen. Neither the zone board or government can make it happen in the absence of business, nor should they. This process has started with some preliminary meetings being held to identify industry concerns. It is goal to have a significant number of players working together before the start of the 2006 tourist season. We will work to have this expanded to the western region by continuing to support the Western Tourism Partnership.
C. Information Technology
Many of the areas we represent still do not have broadband service and this is a definite draw back in today’s business environment. We were not successful with our application to Industry Canada last year; therefore we are pursuing other ways of getting the service to areas of the zone where it is currently non-existent. We will be meeting with Aliant in April to discuss their plans for expansion of service over the next two years. We will also pursue the expansion of the system being installed in Zone 10 to our area, if Aliant is not going to meet community needs within a reasonable time frame. Our plan is to have a go forward strategy in place before year end.
Our environmental scan identifies agriculture as a very important economic generator in the zone and has been identified as priority one for the Bay St. George South area. This was done through a strategic planning process which identified agriculture as the sector with the most opportunity for growth. The opportunity identified is the production of agriculture products to replace current imports of primary and secondary products. We still produce only 15% of our requirements. The most obvious benefit is the potential for employment in a sector that is growing and will provide a level of independence for the province that has not been seen since pre-confederation.
We have spent considerable time over the past 16 months working directly with existing farmers as well as working with identified groups who are interested in investing in this sector, i.e. new entrants. We facilitated capacity training throughout the zone and have met on a regular basis with eight farmers in the Bay St. George South area over the past 16 months. This group is made up of the largest producers of root crop in the area, all of whom are looking to expand their operations. As well, we are still involved with the Coastal Growers greenhouse operation in Burgeo.
Some evidence of the expanding agricultural sector, a group of 14 people on the Port au Port Peninsula have shown a serious commitment to becoming involved in the production of both primary and secondary products. We have had meetings at various locations throughout the zone where we brought those involved, as well as those who are interested, together with the Department of Agriculture (federal & provincial), Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development; Human Resources and Social Development Canada; Long Range Community Business Development Corporation and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, who explained their various programs and how they might assist with the growth of the industry.
We have met with Dairy producers in the area to discuss potential for growth in this sector and have identified several opportunities with spin-off implications for other sectors. Some examples are the production of fertilizer and the use of spent and new born animals currently going into land fill.
There has been a significant amount of research done over the years in relation to agriculture; however, we find there is no cohesive document giving the sector a clear overview. While we believe the information may be out there, it is disjointed at best.
The agricultural study carried out on the Port au Port Peninsula by ITRD is current and identified potential in growing turkey, sheep and highlights opportunity in the production of non traditional products such as berries with the opportunity in the secondary processing of these products.
We have carried out research in-house on the production of onions which shows there is no reason we should be importing close to 100% of our requirements. (Calvin Gillis 2003) We will elaborate on various other reports we are gathering in our final document through this research.
We have 31 commercial farming operations in our zone, i.e. people producing in excess of $10,000 worth of product a year. There are quite a few hobby farmers in our area which may be a plus as there is a possibility they might move into commercial production. Conversely, they can have a negative impact on pricing or market demand and commercial production values in root crop, dairy, poultry, beef, lamb might be affected.
The recently established yogurt plant in our area provides opportunity for growth in various secondary products and provides an opportunity for the production of sheep and goat milk. There are three independent packing facilities for root crops in our zone and there is a community facility located in Robinsons that we are helping to re-activate. We are fortunate to have College of the North Atlantic’s facilities located in our area to provide training. There are several outside agencies that can be accessed for further development including the Federation of Agriculture.
Our ongoing consultations have identified a number of issues that are hindering growth in the sector:
2. Lack of support from Province and in particular the Department of Agriculture
3. Lack of human resources
4. Access to prime agriculture land
5. Value of farms and succession
6. Transportation of product
7. Capital cost
While these are real issues none of them are insurmountable, however; it will take a commitment and cooperation from industry players, CNA, the Federation of Agriculture, the Provincial Government, both the Agriculture and ITRD departments, wholesalers/retailers, the Federal government and their various agencies, local development agencies, Town Councils and Chambers of Commerce to get these issues rectified.
The board will be taking the following actions to help address concerns and capitalize on opportunities over the coming months.