GUYSBOROUGH – The Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) has launched a private sector-led organization which it says will focus on “improving tourism offerings and opportunities for small businesses”.
At a special meeting on April 6, the MODG Board approved several recommendations from its committee from the plenary session held earlier in the afternoon at the Guysborough District Business Partnership (GDBP), including a funding commitment from $1.5 million over five years.
“The Council has taken a strong stance on this new initiative because it is something we badly need – more people. This strategic new venture hopes to attract additional visitors, additional businesses and a more deliberate impact on the future viability of our municipality,” MODG Vernon Pitts said in a public statement released April 7.
He reiterated these thoughts in an April 11 telephone conversation with The newspaper.
“We’re very excited about this,” Pitts said of the newly approved initiative, which he says will not only help retain, but attract people to the area.
The genesis of what is now the GDBP came a few months ago during the annual planning session of the MODG, which includes city councilors and staff. It was an idea of something to consider from CAO Barry Carroll.
“Those are the types of things he should be considering – that’s what we pay him for,” Pitts offers as he comes to the table with the suggestion.
Noting that elected officials – like himself – are “advisors and not business people,” he explains that the council thought the idea would bring in much sought-after expertise that could benefit the municipality.
“They can let us know what we need, what we’re missing,” says Pitts.
He notes that it could be anything from infrastructure to other improvements.
Pitts points out that the GDPP will not be managed by the MODG; his office will not even be located in the Guysborough municipal building.
“We’ll provide the fuel and they’ll drive,” he offers of the relationship.
This “fuel” will include the municipality’s aforementioned funding commitment of $1.5 million – over a five-year period – including $1 million in direct money: $200,000 per year, with a maximum of $100,000 $ to be used for administrative expenses and $100,000 for special project funding.
For indirect funding ($500,000), MODG will cover salary and social costs for the secondment of one MODG employee (City Clerk Ashley Cunningham) to the new entity, while also covering start-up costs. initial costs – such as legal fees, furniture and information technology – plus in-kind labor costs.
“I am very excited to start in this role. I hope to have an impact on MODG’s tourism and small business offerings by working with our experienced team of board members to build partnerships and enhance what MODG has to offer,” Cunningham — executive director of GDPP — said in the April 7 press release.
In a follow-up email conversation on April 11, she spoke in more detail about the initiative.
“The idea for creating the GDPP was born out of looking at our current needs – more people and more business offerings in MODG,” she writes.
“Creating new experiential tourist attractions, using our already existing natural beauty and making simple improvements will definitely increase our appeal to tourists,” she says.
Cunningham explains that “leveraging” grants and funding from the provincial and federal governments will be key to “carrying out these projects and advancing MODG’s commercial offerings.”
With Cunningham’s secondment to this full-time position, Magdelyn Connolly will transition from MODG Public Works Administrative Assistant to City Clerk.
The Board also approved a transfer of $200,000 from the MODG’s Economic Development Reserve – once GDPR is established – which the newly formed body’s Board of Directors will manage in the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Announcing the launch, under the slogan “Building for a Prosperous Future”, city officials outlined priorities for the GDPP, including developing small businesses, improving tourism, developing relationships with organizations such as the ‘ACOA and DEANS, identifying business development incentives, residents attraction, residential development and community events.
When asked what the GDBP would do differently from the current economic development directorate of the MODG, the director replied “improve the operations of this office”, while noting that the director of economic development, Gordon MacDonald, will be a member ex-officio of the GDPP founding board of directors. directors.
Speaking of this body, with one of the many motions presented as part of the creation of the GDBP, the city council gave the go-ahead for the appointment of its members.
“You’re always going to leave someone out,” Pitts offers, noting that there were plenty of qualified candidates to choose from in this process; founding directors were selected from names proposed by MODG staff and advisors.
He adds that they have “succeeded” in putting together a group with broad representation from key areas, including aspects of the business community – such as tourism, industry and natural resources.
“Everyone was very positive,” Pitts notes of the response they received from potential board members.
Glynn Williams – chairman and owner of Authentic Seacoast Ltd., one of those selected for the first group of directors – will be the first chairman of the GDPP. (He could not be reached for comment at press time.)
Directors were appointed for staggered terms of one, two and three years. The GDBP Board will announce all future places, with recommendations coming to the MODG Board for nominations and reappointments.
Joining Williams, who will serve a three-year term, are Ann Marie Bagnall (three-year term), owner-operator of Seawind Landing and president of the Guysborough and Area Chamber of Commerce; Thomas Grover (three years), President of Tor Bay Fisheries; Mike Feltmate (two), president of East Coast Hydraulics; Alison Myers (two), pharmacist owner of Guysborough PharmaChoice; Fraser Cook (one year), owner and operator of Robin’s Gas Bar; and Tera Dorrington (one year), Deputy Director of CECGA.
With this latest appointment – someone from the education community – city officials say it helps meet its goal of “having a direct connection to high school students”.
Pitts explains that it is important to have representation from this field, given that today’s students will form an important part of the workforce that will hopefully benefit from GDPP initiatives.
“We want to help them prepare for what’s happening,” he says, providing students with a “heads up” on the opportunities as they develop, while receiving feedback – through the rep. of the board – of this key demographic.
The founding council will elect its vice-president and its secretary-treasurer.
Along with MacDonald, an elected representative from the MODG – currently Councilor Paul Long – will serve as an ex-officio member of the GDBP Board.
When launching the GDPP, Pitts suggests that “there will undoubtedly be adjustments in the future,” as the founding board meets and grows.
He expects the initiative to make “big breakthroughs” when it comes to providing the MODG with “some missing pieces of the puzzle” when it comes to economic growth and prosperity.
Describing the municipality – as he often does – as the “best kept secret”, Pitts expects the GDBP to play a key role not only in letting people know what MODG “has to offer”, but also “how easy it is to settle here”. .”
At the unveiling of the GDPP, city officials said its creation “demonstrates their confidence in the future of the municipality and the need to convey this message to local business owners and private sector investors”.