By Eric Bourque
That Yarmouth will have a ferry again starting next May is great news for the local economy, say representatives of local groups very much interested in local business activity and the economic picture here.
These include Yarmouth’s Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC), whose executive director, Chris Atwood, says people who may have been reluctant to pursue business ideas while the ferry situation was up in the air might be willing to go ahead with them now that a ferry service has been secured.
Recently, he said, the local CBDC had “seen some people showing some optimism in our economy and, I think, knowing that there’s a new ferry coming, that optimism will just continue to grow. We’re hearing rumblings of people wanting to do projects. It is very good to hear.”
Atwood, who also chairs the Yarmouth Development Corporation, says the Sept. 5 announcement that there will be a ferry running next year between here and Portland is welcome news for downtown Yarmouth.
“I think the businesses in the downtown are going to be excited to know that there’s going to be a boat in town next year and that there’s going to be more people, tourists, on our streets, shopping at our local stores and utilizing local services,” he said.
Anne Marie LeBlanc, executive director of the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce, notes that transportation has always been an important issue for the chamber.
Referring to the announcement that Yarmouth’s ferry link with New England will be reestablished, she said, “It’s fantastic news. It’s something that is going to give Yarmouth a boost. I know the chamber wants to acknowledge all of those that have worked on this.”
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Both Atwood and LeBlanc cited the efforts of the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership in making the case for a Yarmouth vessel, a point also emphasized by Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Graham Steele when he announced that a ferry deal had been reached.
Recalling the time in 2011 when the ferry partnership was formed, LeBlanc said, “That, in itself, was a huge step forward” because the group’s members “understood the importance of the ferry, the importance of transportation, and (chairman) Keith Condon did a yeoman’s job in putting this forward and also heartfelt thanks to the entire NSIFP board. Wonderful work.”
Like Atwood, LeBlanc says she hopes the new ferry service will lead to increased business activity, not only giving a boost to existing businesses but paving the way for new ones.
“It sets a positive tone,” she said.
Atwood – who happened to be president of the Yarmouth chamber at the time the previous Yarmouth ferry service was cancelled in 2009 – says the ferry issue is not just a local one but also a provincial one, a point others have made as well.
Atwood says that while travelling during his recent stint as chair of the Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce (a position he no longer holds), he heard from people who said they too had felt the impact of losing the ferry.
“When I travelled to Cape Breton or to Truro, whatever, and stayed at hotels, they would mention – once they knew I was from Yarmouth – that they had noticed a decline in American tourists since the ferry service was removed.”