Hants County and the Economic Slowdown; April 2009
Growing Through Adversity
While the collapse of major US financial institutions was complexities of the global economy, and just how difficult it is
sending shockwaves through the global economy last fall, the to predict what the impact of the US slowdown will be on the
CEO of one of Nova Scotia’s oldest companies was heaving a local economy.
sigh of relief.
“A slowdown is never good news,” says Ryan MacNeil,
For more than a year, Scott Travers, CEO of Minas Basin Pulp Executive Director of the Hants Regional Development
and Power, had been steering the Hantsport paperboard Authority. “But even in the middle of a downturn, there are
manufacturer through a perfect storm of rising input costs. always opportunities for growth.”
Not only were energy prices surging, For instance, in a January press
but the world price of old corrugated conference, Minas Basin announced a
cardboard (OCC), the material Minas number of advances on its estimated
Basin uses to make its product, was $12 million Bay of Fundy tidal energy
skyrocketing thanks to demand from facility. When it comes on stream, the
the blistering Asian economies. project will be North America’s first tidal
energy project. Together with Nova
“We were fighting our darkest days
Scotia Energy Minister Barry Barnet,
when the rest of the world was
Travers made a number of
enjoying unparalleled economic
announcements including new
growth,” says Travers.
technology, the location of the turbines
But in the face of adversity, the firm and an upcoming construction contract.
turned to innovation. Minas Basin countered rising energy The Bay of Fundy has the capacity to power as many as
costs by investing even more heavily in sustainable energy 100,000 homes, according energy department statistics.
including biomass co-generation, wind energy and tidal
Ryan MacNeil says Minas Basin is a classic example of the
energy. It rose to the challenge of climate change by
benefits of diversification. “After 82 years in business Minas
becoming one of the first Canadian companies to trade carbon
Basin has a lot to teach us in terms of staying power,” MacNeil
says. Having diverse interests in the paper and energy
When the US economy faltered, taking commodity and energy industries has helped “storm harden” the company, MacNeil
prices down with it, Minas Basin’s luck started to change. “We says, allowing it to thrive, even in times of economic hardship.
saw the prices of our biggest inputs – energy and OCC, fall
For Travers, the keys to successfully steering a company
dramatically,” Travers says.
through a downturn include holding a line on costs, but also
Like many firms, Minas Basin has not emerged from the looking through adversity to the underlying opportunity.
economic shakedown unscathed. The firm temporarily shut
“As a manager, you need to get creative and closely examine
down operations twice (in December and February), and
all the opportunities in front of you,” he says. “That’s true
Travers warns that an economic slowdown may affect demand
whether you launched your company last year or last
for their product. But the experience illustrates the
Hants County and the Economic Slowdown; April 2009
Hants Economy at a Glance
Where we are now: Where we go from here:
Like other parts of Nova Scotia and Canada, the Hants County Buy local. Supporting local businesses and producers has an
economy is experiencing a slowdown. Leading employers immediate and direct impact on the local economy. Stronger
have been forced to lay-off workers, or temporarily shut down local businesses make for better local employment
production in order to remain competitive. Sectors most at opportunities, a stronger local tax base leading to better
risk include primary resources, manufacturing and tourism. services, as well as a profound sense of civic pride and
Economists predict the effects of the global slowdown will be
moderated in Nova Scotia. At 3.4%, the inflation rate is Take stock. Adversity breeds innovation and competitiveness.
roughly a third of what it was during the 1980s. Government Now is the time for individuals, businesses and organizations
finances continue to be strong; Nova Scotia is currently in a to take stock of their strengths, address any shortcomings, and
surplus position. A falling Canadian dollar will help offset position themselves for future growth.
lagging US demand for Canadian
Get connected. Tough economic times
exports, and stimulate investments in
challenge individuals, managers and
productivity-enhancing technology. The Hants RDA is committed to
community leaders to do more with
According to the Conference Board of working with its partners within less. Reaching out to local partners,
Canada, national GDP will decline by the business community, and in all leveraging contacts and working
1.7% this year, compared to 2.7% three levels of government, to together can improve productivity,
growth in 2007, and 3.1% growth in advance the region, its businesses efficiency and know-how. The Hants
2006. The Bank of Canada expects the RDA is committed to working with its
and its communities
country’s economy to begin recovering partners within the business
gradually near the end of 2009. The community, and in all three levels of
economy is projected to grow by 2.5 per government, to advance the region, its
cent in 2010 and 4.7 per cent in 2011. businesses and its communities.
As of March 2009, the Annapolis Valley’s unemployment rate Keep an eye on the future. The way in which a business or
hovered at 6.6% (this includes Hants, Kings and Annapolis organization responds during a downturn sets the trajectory
Counties). Currently, the valley is in better slightly shape than of its future growth. A downturn is not a time to batten down
in March of 2010, when the unemployment rate sat at 11.7%. the hatches – it’s a time to surge forward. For example, a
landmark McGraw-Hill study showed that businesses that
maintained their marketing efforts during the 1980-83
- Major expansions are underway at Shaw Pipe, enabling the recession increased sales by 32% during the downturn and by
company to tap into Nova Scotia’s lucrative offshore and 275% within two years of the economy’s recovery. On the
infrastructure industries. other hand, firms that cut back on their marketing lost 12% of
- Sustainable Fish Farming Ltd. has completed phase one of its sales during the recession, and had clawed back only 19% in
aquaculture facility in Summerville. the same two-year post-recovery period. The lesson? Invest
now for a more prosperous future.
- The twinning of Highway 101 offers businesses and residents
of Hants County unprecedented access to local, provincial and
The Hants Regional Development Authority is a forward-looking organization established to support and advance community
economic development in Hants County. Led by a board of local volunteers and Executive Director Ryan MacNeil, the Hants RDA
works with businesses, community groups and all three levels of government to champion the interests of Hants County locally,
regionally and internationally.
For more information, visit the Hants RDA in Windsor (798-2284), Elmsdale (883-3338), or online at www.hantscounty.com.