Michelin plant in Pictou County
Coun. Robert Parker asked that council approve a motion for the formation of a working committee made of representatives from the local business world, MLAs and fellow municipal councils to try to improve the economic future for the area.
“The province is putting something together, but where do we go from here?” he asked. “Leadership has to come from the other five councils as well. We need a working group to see where we go from here.”
Michelin Tire announced Monday that it would be reducing its workforce at its Granton plant by 500 people by June 2015 because of a decrease in demand for small vehicle tires. The plant will continue operations as usual in southern Nova Scotia.
Parker said the Pictou County Regional Development Corporation is no longer operating and anything that will replace it isn't even established yet.
“We need to get a message out to the people that this council will be a part in looking for a plan for this county,” he said. “We need to roll up our sleeves, get the right people involved and do something about it.”
Deputy Warden Andy Thompson agreed with Parker, saying that something needs to be done to help rural municipalities, adding that some behind the scenes work has been taking place on the economic development front.
“We are working strategically with our municipal partners to create new opportunities,” he said. “We are coming into a transition period and it started today. Michelin is the bedrock that supplied a work directly and indirectly.
Parker said he appreciates the work that has already been done, but now is the time to show local residents that council is supporting them in this difficult time.
“The public needs to knows we are taking the bull by the horns and it needs to instill faith in our general public,” Parker said.
Thompson agreed, saying that the county recently advertised a position for a new economic development officer for both the county and New Glasgow that will concentrate on bringing business opportunities to the area.
“We can wallow in the bad news or try to use it to our advantage and make it a better county to live in,” he said. “A lot of people are working at the Michelin plant and want to stay here.”
Coun. David Parker said the county has to be seen doing something and suggested that it might want to look at lowering its business tax rate or residential tax rate in the new fiscal year if it has another large surplus at the end of the month.
In 2013, the county ended its year with a $50,000 surplus and it is expecting it will be in good financial standing at the end of this fiscal year in March 2014.
“It is not wise to carry a surplus when businesses are struggling and home owners are struggling,” he said.
Coun. Leonard Fraser said council should give this idea some thought before it reacts because when a business downsizes, property assessments drop and the county collects less taxes, meaning its surplus may not be as plentiful in the future.
In the end, councilors unanimously agreed to establish a working group on the issue of economic development for the county and will be in touch with other potential members to begin work.