© Nick Moase
The nine municipal units running from Clyde River to the Halifax County line officially inked the Regional Enterprise Network agreement on Aug. 20.
Nine municipalities joined forces on Aug. 20, and officially formed the South Shore Regional Enterprise Network (REN).
Queens County will join all of the Lunenburg County municipal units along with the Town of Shelburne, Town of Lockeport and Municipality of Shelburne in the REN.
Simon d'Entremont, deputy minister for the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, said the REN will be much more focused that the previous Regional Development Authorities (RDA). The RDA looked at "development" in a broad way, which could have been community, economic, or social development, he said.
The REN's focus will narrow in on business and economic development.
Mayor Christopher Clarke said the REN will give a stronger voice for the municipalities in dealing with the province, rather than 54 individual municipalities.
"We are much stronger if we work together," he said.
As an example he said when Bowater Mersey paper mill closed in 2012, Queens worked very closely with District of Lunenburg and they got many initiatives underway.
Any benefits that come to the South Shore will be good for all counties, he said.
"If you create employment in Shelburne County there are a lot of people in West Queens who would go for employment. We have a lot of people who go to Lunenburg County as well," he said.
"We're all in need of help and we all need to grow our economies."
The next step is to create a board of directors to oversee the operation, hire a CEO and hire staff. They will also set up an office, likely in Bridgewater, at a yet to be determined location.
The REN board of directors will be made up of four representatives from the municipal unites (one from Queens, one from Shelburne and two from Lunenburg County) and nine members of the business community, one from each municipal unit.
Mayor Clarke said they hope to be up and running in early 2015.
One of the first big focuses will be tourism, said Mayor Clarke, and develop a strategy for the South Shore.
"It's been fragmented in the past, but more and more people travel by looking for destinations. We see the South Shore as a pretty viable destination."
The budget for the new REN is about $360,000, with half coming from the province and half coming from the nine municipalities. Each pays for their portion based on population, similar to how other group contributions, such as education, are done.
The money will go primarily for staffing and office space.
"It doesn't really give you the resources to do project specific things," said Allen Webber, warden for the Municipality of the District of Chester.
Instead the REN will look at what the priority projects are for the area and work with the province on making them a reality.
Among the planned projects of the REN are the continuation of the Why Here? initiative and its expansion to include Shelburne County units, continuation of the Business Expansion and Retention programâ€™s (BRE) targeted visits to local businesses to aid in their development, investment readiness, and a tourism focus to fill the void left by the now defunct Destination SouthWest Nova .