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July 20, 2018

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Recently Future St. Stephen has been focusing on two important aspects: jobs and housing.  It is interesting to note that at the recent job fair there were over 300 job vacancies in Charlotte County and even more interestingly, that seems to be the pattern across New Brunswick and Canada.  Businesses are being restricted in their ability to grow and meet customer demands by their inability to get employees.  You might find that hard to believe but it is true and runs across most job descriptions: doctors, teachers, laborers, tradespeople, medical and pharmaceutical professionals, production line workers, tourism industry, strawberry pickers in N.S., etc.  How can that be?  There are several partial answers: declining population, aging population, lack of skills training, motivation to work, low wages in some areas, lack of knowledge about jobs available…..   There are also several solutions and we will be working with others to try and help.

Another and related issue is accommodations.  If you have tried to find an apartment in Town you know the supply is limited.  That means someone who is interested in working here might be discouraged by not being able to find a suitable place to live.  Not everyone wants the same thing so we need a variety of rent/buy options, at different price points and with different amenities.   It is a significant challenge because it is not always economically viable to build new units and it is not always easy to get the money to finance it.  We need to work with developers and contractors, employers, and governments to find solutions – and we will, but it takes time.  In the short term we need something to hold people here until some of the longer term solutions start to kick in.  Got an idea?  Call me.

What’s new in Town:

Impact Wealth have recently opened in the Guy R Day office and are working with them to provide customers with an added range of services including life insurance, group benefits and investment products.  Stop in to see them Tuesday, Thursday or Friday’s.

 

A new shop called Sand ‘n Sky Yarns and Designs has just opened in the St. Croix Courier building behind BMO.  They sell beautiful yarns from Canada, UK & Ireland and are getting ready to conduct knitting lessons in the Fall.  New folks in Town offering a great product line.

 

Support local businesses !

July 6, 2018

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Festivals and Events

What do festivals and events have to do with growing a community?  A lot !  We are so fortunate to have volunteers and staff working on special events – Chocolate Fest, International Days, Fall Fair, Lumberjack Competition, Canada Day, New Brunswick Day, and others.  In most cases people are working on them all year long for a one day or one week long celebration.  It is a chance for tourists and for families with roots in Charlotte County to visit friends, to walk the streets and to generally enjoy the festivities.  In some cases it may be an introduction to the community.  In other cases it is a reminder of all the good things we have.  Some decide it is a good place to move to.  Others decide to return next year.  In all cases, we benefit from the fellowship and the economic return.

If someone is trying to decide whether Charlotte County is a good place to live, and perhaps take a new job with one of our local businesses, they check us out.  They want to know whether there is enough going on to keep them happy, whether they would feel welcome here.   Festivals and events are a great introduction because they represent who we are – people who love chocolate, people who love being outdoors listening to music or watching lumberjacks perform, people who enjoy food, and most of all people who enjoy just being together and having some fun.

Special thanks to all the people who put together and help out at events around Charlotte County.  You are true ambassadors and we appreciate what you do.

June 28, 2018

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New Hotel

A recent announcement about a new hotel being built in St. Stephen is certainly great news and something we have hoped would happen for many years.  It does not just happen that a developer decides to plunk a new hotel in a particular location, as much as we want it to happen and believe it should be successful.  The developer who is interested must satisfy themselves and their financiers that the hotel will be profitable over the long term.  In larger cities it is an easier sell because of the population base and the greater number of businesses.  There usually are a number of existing hotels and their success can be used as a justification for a new one.  In a smaller community like St. Stephen it is more difficult and takes a lot longer.  But we are over that hurtle and we need to thank the developers for their confidence in us.

Why will a hotel be good for us?  First and foremost it will support events at the GCC which could not previously be held because of event conditions requiring a certain number of hotel rooms, of a certain description, within a certain number of miles.  Many large sporting events have that requirement so that the athletes and fans can get accommodations without a great deal of travel – not our rules but a condition of being awarded many events.  Second, a hotel on the highway will draw in people who will now spend the night and perhaps eat in our restaurants or shop in our stores.  Third, there will be dozens of new jobs created.  And lots more reasons why a hotel and all the other things in the development – gas bar, restaurant, retail – will help our community thrive.

None of these advantages is a slight against the accommodations which we already have in St. Stephen.  We need and appreciate them very much.  We need critical mass which means having more of something (such as rooms available) which makes us more attractive and should help fill both new and existing rooms.  The same story is told of retail – one is a store, several makes a shopping experience and greatly increases the success.  We hope this will be true for all accommodation suppliers in the area.

June 18, 2018

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I usually avoid political discussion but recent news events make it difficult.  Let’s put a St. Stephen spin on it all.  In a world of turmoil and increasingly antagonistic relationships, St. Stephen can be a place of relative peace and calm.  We have a good relationship with our U.S. neighbors; we have good economic things happening; we still wave to our friends as we jaywalk across Milltown Blvd; we still meet them for lunch or coffee; and we still feel safe walking the streets and not locking our doors.  So what is different here?  The answer is “us”.

As we try to grow our population to make this a more prosperous community, people come here and check us out.  If they see positive, they may stay. And that is good for us whether they come from Saint John, Toronto or the Ukraine.  The recent job fair at the GCC certainly convinces us that there are lots of jobs available for all – well in excess of 300 of them as local businesses want to grow.  We are all people trying to get along and raise a family.  Life is so much better when we treat each other as friends we know, or friends we have not yet met.  Introduce yourself to your neighbors whether they have lived there forever or just moved in.

What’s new?

Approvals have been received to improve the flood prone area near the traffic circle.  That will be a huge advantage to businesses and homes in that area and we greatly appreciate the folks who stepped up to make those necessary improvements.  We should see construction this summer.

Keith Holmes has Scribbles on King St. up and running providing entertainment value to kids and parents.  In the adjoining building will be an adult education center and High Tides: Music and Head Shop, both opening soon.

Pine Grove Construction are opening a new office on Milltown Blvd.  They have been a local business for many years but we welcome this new venture.

May 22, 2018

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The Conversation

Last week, David Campbell made a presentation at the GCC about work force realities in Canada and New Brunswick entitled “New Conversations”.  It was eye opening.  The median age of Canadians has increased since 1971 from 24 to 45 today.  Basically that means we as a country are getting older not just as individuals but as a mix of age groups.  That has several important ramifications.  First it means that there are fewer young, wage earning taxpayers to support the infrastructure such as roads, health care and education than there used to be.  It also means there are more retired folks who are drawing on their well deserved Canada Pension and Old Age Security.  Recent news articles show that someone has invested our pension money very wisely and the fund is in good shape (thank you to them!) but eventually, as we draw more out and contribute less as a work force, it will go the other way.

The other important thing that we are seeing is a shrinking work force in New Brunswick and in Canada as a whole.  In the last 5 years, New Brunswick’s work force (those working or looking for work) has shrunk by about 12,000 people in spite of an addition of 3,100 landed immigrants added to the work force.  That means there are over 15,000 fewer Canadian born workers available to fill the jobs in New Brunswick.  To be perfectly clear, that number includes both workers who are employed or actively seeking work.  That number about matches the 2016 census numbers indicating a population decline in New Brunswick.

So what does that mean?  It means we have a worker shortage holding back the growth of our local businesses, and we have a young people shortage across Canada – not just in New Brunswick and not just in Charlotte County.  “The Conversation Tour” was an introduction to the challenge and frankly, how immigration can be a possible partial solution.   As you see some of the new young immigrants around Town, reach out to them and make them feel welcome.  They are here to help us and our businesses, just as much as they appreciate the opportunity to work here and start new lives.

May 8, 2018

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This week was the St. Stephen Middle School entrepreneur fair.  Having attended and also having a little involvement with the students this year, I can tell you the future is in good hands – at least in St. Stephen!  These students are not just creating and selling a product.  They are learning how to master their future.  The educators and local business folks supporting them are doing a tremendous job in helping the students understand not just how a business is started, but how to be happy in their future work life.  So many people dread going to work.  Others love it.  Entrepreneurs tend to fall predominantly in the latter group.  The important thing to remember is that you do not have to start or own your own business to be an entrepreneur.  The entrepreneurial spirit can be witnessed within larger companies by employees – people who believe that what they do every day makes a difference to the company and that they are responsible for that in some small or great way.

We hear that the future of the Province may well be rooted in entrepreneurship.  There are many examples of successes in Charlotte County – some one or two person small businesses and some very large global competitors who started right here.  The next one may well come from this group of students whether it is in the particular project they have chosen today, or whether it will be something totally different.  In any case, the life skills they are learning will be a tremendous asset for the future.  Thank you to the students for your energy.  Thank you to the educators and business folks who have helped out.  It is important.