Business can thrive in county, Chamber leader Kyte says

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(Editor’s note: The following article is the first in a series looking at local business and the economy and why it can sometimes be difficult for local business to stay independent
in Nova Scotia.)

NEW GLASGOW – People need to adapt to changes in the corporate world, the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce’s executive director said.
“You have to look at each business, but there is change taking place,” Jack Kyte said, speaking in response to recent business developments involving Pictou County. “Our focus
needs to be on getting more business. We need to move forward in some way.”

Kyte said the economic development group of municipal council members – formed after the demise of the Pictou Regional Development Authority and the province’s other regional development agencies – may be a solution.

“I think there is an opportunity and the chamber has offered to help the group in any way we can,” he said. “We have to be investment-ready, to have the answers for businesses and be more efficient in our permitting, and it doesn’t matter where a business locates in the county. We all have different strengths to bring to the table.”

Kyte referred to the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Services, which the chamber presented with an award at its annual Business Achievement Awards gala last fall for its work.

“What they are doing can help us here,” he said.

Kyte said it’s time for Pictou County to abandon attempts to form a regional economic network (REN) that the province designed to replace RDAs.

Pictou County has been unable to join municipalities either east or west of it to form a REN.
He noted how five key stakeholders – the towns of Truro and Stewiacke, Colchester County, Millbrook First Nation and the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce with support from the business community – intend to provide funding and expertise to support the establishment of a new economic development organization, structured similarly to the provincially organized regional economic networks.

The chamber there announced the pilot project’s formation recently.

“Colchester County is moving on,” he said. “That’s what we need to do, and it does not have to be in a REN. I believe we can do it.”

Kyte said he feels reassured that Irvingowned hardware firm Kent’s purchase of Central Home Improvement stores in Stellarton and elsewhere will not unduly disrupt the building industry, and it is an Atlantic company.

“The main thing is that Kent wants to keep the business here and keep employees here,” he said. “I would think they have the wherewithal to keep (the local store) competitive. It’s a great way for Kent to break into this market, and it’s not as if Kent is coming in and competing with Central. What we have (among the other hardware stores) seems to be viable and they seem to have their niches and their contract relationships, which is very important. I think we’re fortunate in Pictou County to have that chocie. Competition
makes that happen.”

Kyte said the loss of S c o t s b u r n Co-operative Inc.’s presence in the county speaks to the changing market forces in the dairy industry.

“Scotsburn was part of our family here,” he said. “They were such a great business for community support, but I think we became complacent that they would be there. It’s a struggle to make a profit; you want to maintain and grow the business.”

He said a local dairy farm industry remains, despite Scotsburn’s migration from the county and its eventual purchase by a Quebec business late last year.

“Supply management is still in place – that’s our saving grace,” he said. Kyte listed the variety of local businesses that are exporting more goods and services from Pictou County. They include larger companies like Michelin and Northern Pulp, intermediate employers like Aecon Atlantic, I. Matheson, MacGregor Industries Group, J.J. MacKay Meters, Stright-
MacKay and Wear Well and technical firms like Global and Velsoft.

“We are very fortunate to have diversity in our economy,” he said.

Kyte said Pictou County could benefit from the growing possibility of goods flowing to and from a deep water port operation in Sydney.

“It could be good for us,” he said. “Things that are happening in Cape Breton could help us here.”

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