MONTAGUE — The president of the Eastern P.E.I. chamber of commerce expects great things in 2013 and is focusing on the opportunities rather than challenges.
Despite a few extra burdens like EI changes and the arrival of the HST, Chris Nicholson says a small incremental increase in the employment rate of the Island during the recent winter months speaks volumes.
“Seasonal businesses no doubt will be the most affected by (EI and HST), but an employment increase in the winter months shows signs of a work force and employers committed to excellence in their respective industries,” he said during an interview.
The Eastern chamber consists of the entire land mass east of Stratford. From Wood Islands to Souris to St. Peter’s and even members from Stratford; in total, the chamber has grown to over 150 business members.
“Farming and fishing have always been a strong player in the economy of P.E.I. and will continue to play a large role in our success,” said Nicholson. “Seeing farmers’ markets and entrepreneurs selling products from the land and sea helps preserve some of the uniqueness of an island community.”
The chamber president said there are empty buildings prime for potential that scatter eastern Island communities, but business people are encouraged the former APM building at Poole’s Corner has finally found a tenant.
“I know all businesses and residents of the area hope to see them there for years to come,’’ he said of a new electronics operation established by successful Island businessman Jason Aspin with intent to employ about 30 people.
Nicholson said another building of tremendous potential with close proximity to a beautiful and well equipped harbour sits in Souris and the marketability of the former Ocean Choice plant is tremendous.
“One of my greatest hopes for 2013 is that we see the reopening of the shipyard in Georgetown. This was a company that we didn’t know how lucky we were to have until it was gone. The city of Halifax is a buzz with the prospect of ships being built here in the Maritimes (with a new Canadian shipbuilding program) and we hope we can share in that excitement.”
Construction is another great sign for the area, he said, noting the construction of a new hotel, the Riverhouse Inn, on the Montague waterfront that will open this spring.
“We are blessed with beautiful waters, beaches, forests and fields, not to mention artists that capture the essence of P.E.I. and the chamber is very proud to support the Artisans on Main Project (Montague) and looking forward to what they have in store this summer.”
While it’s easy to focus on all the challenges of 2013, Nicholson said he knows chamber members will focus on the opportunities.