The Yarmouth area faces some challenges on a number of fronts, but efforts are underway to address them, and the area is in better shape now compared to six years or so ago, local municipal leaders say.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood, Yarmouth Warden Leland Anthony and Argyle Warden Richard Donaldson were invited to address the local business community during a new event organized by the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce.
Billed as a State of the Region event, it was held Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the Rodd Grand Hotel, where 80 people turned out to hear the mayor and wardens discuss a number of issues.
All three leaders noted how the local municipal units are working together in various ways on different fronts, a trend that is expected to continue.
“We have to focus on thinking regionally,” said Mayor Mood, who cited as an example the Western Regional Enterprise Network, of which the three Yarmouth-area municipal units are members.
Warden Donaldson, speaking on behalf of the Municipality of Argyle, cited a couple of issues that are of concern not just locally but in much of rural Nova Scotia.
“We have too few people and also an aging population,” he said, adding that the lack of skilled trades is an issue as well.
He talked about the importance of the fishing industry, how local fishermen make and spend money and help keep the economy going.
Among other things, he spoke of his municipality’s efforts regarding aquaculture and the municipality’s success with the Tusket business park.
Donaldson’s counterpart in the Municipality of Yarmouth – Warden Anthony – said rural internet is his municipality’s top priority and he acknowledged this is an issue in many parts of the province.
“These are certainly challenging times,” he said. He cited the consolidation that has taken place in industries like the fishery and agriculture, the out-migration of young people, the aging population and infrastructure issues.
But there are positive things happening too, he said, including improvements at the Cape Forchu lighthouse and a renewed focus on the Hebron industrial park – two of the Municipality of Yarmouth’s priorities – and the warden said he expects 2019 to be a good year for Yarmouth County.
This positive view was shared by Yarmouth Mayor Mood, who noted the local area has come a long way since 2013, when Yarmouth was facing a fourth straight tourism season without a ferry. There were plenty of empty downtown storefronts around that time and many locals had gone to Western Canada for work.
It is not by accident but by design, the mayor said, that the town has bounced back from the tough period it went through during that time with no ferry service.
“There are few accidents in the building of communities,” she said.
Referring to what the town has done in recent years, she said, “We know not all of our council’s decisions have been popular. It’s the tough things in life that help us grow the most.”
Rick Allwright, executive director of the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce, said organizers were very pleased with their first State of the Region event.
“It certainly provided a forum for our business community to hear from the mayor and wardens and that is something that needs to happen and to happen more often,” Allwright said. “We had 80 people in attendance, which we consider great for the first time, and we would only expect to see more in the future.”
The idea is to make this an annual activity, although Allwright said they might skip those years when municipal elections have just been held. (The next municipal elections will take place in October 2020.)