As Cumberland County moves into a new year there is plenty of reason to be optimistic of what the coming 12 months will have in store for us. However, at the same time, there is also reason to be concerned that the economic stagnation we have experienced over the past few years has yet to loosen its grip on the area.
Looking back at 2013 there are numerous possibilities for the top story of the year. Some of the obvious choices would the provincial government finally announcing that Dora Construction had been awarded the tender to complete the renovations to River Hebert District High School – a project that has been delayed for nearly two years because previous tenders came in to high.
It could also be the elation at the actual start of construction of the new West Highlands School, or it could be the provincial election that saw the NDP experiment come to an end in Cumberland North as well as across the province with the election of a Liberal government under Stephen McNeil, a Liberal MLA in Terry Farrell and the re-emergence of the Progressive Conservatives under Cumberland South MLA and party leader Jamie Baillie.
It could also be known as the year of the festival in downtown Amherst. The town, the business community, and the Downtown Amherst Business Advisory Committee brought the Wild Blueberry Harvest Festival back to Amherst, hosted another successful Downtown Street Party and several artisans markets, while organizers of the second Maritime Rockabilly Shakedown Music Festival have taken bold steps toward making Amherst the rockabilly capital of eastern Canada.
There’s a spirit in downtown Amherst that hasn’t been seen in decades and it’s because of the co-operative spirit of all the stakeholders working toward the common goal of making the area a place to visit, do business and have fun.
As we look back at the year that was, it was also a time of increased municipal co-operation between Amherst and Cumberland County. The service sharing agreement that will see the two municipalities share corporate and financial services is just the starting point. While it’s in its stages there’s plenty of hope that it will only be the beginning of a closer working relationship that goes beyond Amherst and Cumberland County to include Springhill, Oxford and Parrsboro.
As we move into 2014, we can only hope that the news on the job front is better than it was in 2013. There are still too many people out of work, too many people working minimum wage jobs and too many people considering leaving as their only option. Let’s hope this is just a short-term blip and the momentum of the late 1990s and early 2000s is regained.