Montague doubles jobs lost to federal cutbacks

Steve Sharratt
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Juice Box operators Rob Arthur and Jana Furness take orders from customers at their Montague café.

Economic engine in Kings County capital, stoked by the private sector, is starting to fire on all pistons

MONTAGUE — Mixing up a kale smoothie at the newest cafe here, owner Jana Furness knows when the economic juice is flowing.

She opened last fall and trudged through one of the worst winters in years, but the customers kept coming.

And while she knows her menu is attractive, she also knows that job growth and new companies have popped up in eastern P.E.I. like tulips.

“Every month seemed to increase and I know we serve popular food, but so many customers coming in were new faces,’’ says Furness, who operates the Juice Box on Main Street. “There’s no question there are is a big increase in jobs nowadays.”

Chamber of Commerce president Chris Nicholson says it’s a welcome trend after federal cutbacks clawed away almost 70 well paid positions over the past two years. And, he notes, the majority of new jobs filtering into the region are private sector.

“Farming and fishing will always be a large part of our economy here, but having other industries in eastern P.E.I. is ever more important to ensure economic stability,” says Nicholson.

As he chows down on his gluten-free hamburger platter this week, Innovation Minister Al Roach can’t help but feel a little more guilt free. He’s taking nothing for granted, but the rookie MLA and cabinet minister is pretty keen on new provincial statistics — especially in his own riding.

Two years ago the air was bleeding out of the economic tire here when the federal government announced it was closing two government operations. The feds announced the closure of the EI claims processing operation and the Addictions Research Centre along the waterfront. It meant the loss of 69 jobs and the loss of an easy $4 million payroll for the eastern P.E.I. region.

“All of a sudden sales just fell off, even in staples like food,” said one store manager. “You could feel the loss.”

But the economic engine here, stoked by the private sector, is starting to fire on all pistons.

In fact, Roach is quite happy to announce that all those lost jobs have not only been replaced in the past six months — but have doubled.

“We’ve actually almost doubled the number of jobs now that were taken away by the feds,’’ he says munching on his salad. “I’ve always wanted to make Montague the economic hub it is meant to be, and I’m glad we’re seeing some results.”

Roach applauds the private sector incentive and enthusiasm for striking out in the lean times, but confirms the province has been there to provide some type of backing.

“The minister is absolutely correct on this,’’ says Mayor Richard Collins, who isn’t playing politics. “I’ve visited and toured every site first hand and these new jobs are thanks to government investment working with the private sector ... I say keep it coming.”

Collins points to Aspin Kemp Enterprises that has relocated its corporate headquarters from Owen Sound, Ontario to Montague. There were 26 head office positions and only one employee is making the move from Ontario, which means 25 new positions being filled to work at the former Addictions Research Centre in Montague.

Aspin Kemp production centre at Poole’s Corner now has 60 workers at that once vacant facility.

The new IT Centre on Main Street has a company of about 12 employees ready to set up shop when that Main Street building opens in late June.

Add in the ten jobs at the new Riverhouse Inn hotel, the dozen or so at SolarVest located on the Greenfield Road and the growth happening at P.E.I. Berries with 15 employees at the former tobacco plant, and Collins says Roach only elected three years ago should be a happy politician.

“It was pretty gloomy here in the past two years with the federal cutbacks, but the right partnerships have been found and we’re rebounding,’’ said the mayor.

Collins says the job growth is helping to turn the region around and there’s still a chance Ocean Choice and the East Isle shipyard might re-open next year.

“I wanted to be right downtown in the heart of the community,’’ says Furness. “And it seems many of these new small job creators like that idea as well.”

Organizations: Addictions Research Centre, IT Centre, Riverhouse Inn

Geographic location: Montague, Eastern P.E.I., East Isle Ontario Owen Sound Greenfield Road

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Recent comments

  • Get real
    June 01, 2014 - 21:48

    River house hotel: they nearly had to sue you to get the money you promised many a moon ago in front of the media. Solarbest, no idea. Good luck folks. Pei berries, millions in screwups so far, what is this, bailout number 2? 3? 4? IT centre on mainstreet. Is this not the ministers assistant building that got a complete facelift? The ATC in Charlottetown is the same. After the Rent subsidies expire, so do the companies. Wage subsidies over = goodbye company. A spin Kemp, great company. Good luck guys. Get off your high horse Roach, you've done nothing. Nothing!

  • Richard Collins
    June 01, 2014 - 11:55

    Hi everyone... I just wanted to answer to " YES" who ever you are. To please explain your statement about helping my friends as you call my coffee crowd. Please explain who I have helped and in what way. That's all im asking is to back up what you are saying. I don't think that's asking too much. Please reply on here or better still please come and visit me at the Town Office im there every afternoon helping all of those who come to see me.Im elected to try to serve all of the residents of Montague. Please be brave enough to back up your statement that's all im asking. Please be person enough to do that. I think that's only fair rather than hide behind a phoney name on this site. All Im asking is to back up or shut up one way or the other. Drop in to see me and have an one on one I would really appreciate it very much. You know in life Fair is Fair. Thank you and God Bless you as well. Thanks Richard Collins Mayor of Montague .

    • voter
      June 01, 2014 - 14:50

      notice the mayor didn't deny "yes's" claims ???!!!??????????

  • knowbetter
    May 31, 2014 - 21:10

    Great Soup, Good Healthy Food Good job Jana, and Chef Rob.Al and Richard should be fired for thinking the government has one thing to be proud of laying off teachers,driving Doctors Young people out west.Letting people suffer ,taking pensions back freezing seniors out of their homes,getting rid of the pork and other livestock farms.Shame on you. While Jana is trying to promote local farmers and produce.

  • Just A Question
    May 31, 2014 - 19:32

    How many of these job's will still be there when the government money stop's ????? I have seen plenty of these start up's in the past that last until the gate is closed to free taxpayers money . Let's be honest , Montague today would be a ghost town if government ever stops passing out our money . I think I could safely say that 99.5% of the businesses - buildings started in the last few years in Montague is done with some form of taxpayers money . Doesn't say much for private industry or investment . LOL

    • Another question.
      June 01, 2014 - 09:31

      Here is a question for you. What are you basing this nonsense on? What are your facts? You have none. Just another sad little person who is jealous of the success of others.

  • Regular Joe
    Regular Joe
    May 31, 2014 - 16:48

    Be interesting to see how much growth there is when the Government funding dries up . How many of these so called new jobs that were created paying above poverty wages . Now that would be news instead of smileing and patting them on the back for taking our tax dollars . No doubt most will be hitting the bricks when funding stops flowing like the majority of past business ventures . Oh and were exactly are these 140 new jobs as double 70 = 140 . My count = 112 acording to these numbers and they are not all new positions . How many millions did it cost for these 112 jobs . Alan and Richard are a good team together lol

    • People like you
      June 01, 2014 - 09:35

      It's people like you that is the problem with PEI. Far more than the government. It doesn't matter how good the news is for a community sad little people like you will always find something to whine about. YOU are the problem Instead of offering answers you sit in your mother's basement and whine and cry about everything. Go out and make something of yourself and stop crying when others have success.

  • Tom Paine
    May 31, 2014 - 16:24

    But the economic engine here, stoked by the private sector, is starting to fire on all pistons. Mmmm... new jobs more than offset government losses. Sounds like a template. Now if only the province figured it out.

  • Private Sector
    May 31, 2014 - 10:49

    Montague job well done but Alan Roach and the current Liberal government had absolutely nothing to do with it. It is good community minded people working hard to keep the community in spite of what governments do or waste money on. Keep the gang here and you won't need to bring in people to work who send all their money home and contribute nothing to the community as they are just here for a job not a home. Spend the money on what matters not bumpy roads and rememeber the road to you know where is paved with good intentions and the road to Montague only gets sand.

  • Politicker
    May 31, 2014 - 10:37

    Ok no problem, just make sure you get your ideas in there though, then tell everyone else to shut up about it. It isn't politics that is your problem there grizzly, it is anger.

  • caringgal
    May 31, 2014 - 09:28

    It certainly is great to see jobs increase in Montague,and Alan Roach helped get them there.The absence of the mayor was questionable during the opening of the new business in the addiction centre.He was drinking coffee with his cronies at a local coffee shop,so I would question his interest in any business,unless he's looking for a free meal.

    • Anti politics islander
      May 31, 2014 - 10:06

      Oh give it up you stupid political fools. The VAST majority of islanders could care less about municipal councils, MLAs or MPs or senators regardless of their ideology. They claim to serve the public but are only involved to line their pockets or those of their supporters and families. PEI politics makes Montreal corruption look like a Boy Scout meeting. Just shut up about the politics for once, would you?

    • Yes
      May 31, 2014 - 13:16

      Yes, Richard does have a hectic coffee schedule with his cronies. Grant him that. He is only interested in helping his friends. Does a good job of it too. Everyone knows that. He's become totally laughable.