Young entrepreneurs can help Cape Breton avoid 'economic cliff'

Nancy King, The Cape Breton Post
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Membertou adviser speaks at chamber of commerce AGM

SYDNEY — Mary Southwell describes herself as being not your standard business owner.

Mary Southwell, owner of Internet Search Media, walks down Commercial Street in, Glace Bay. Southwell is visiting businesses all over the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to introduce the services her business offers, including Internet marketing, website development and social media training.

After attending Acadia University for music education, she ended up with a mountain of debt, realized the job market wasn’t great, took a step back to reassess her situation, and returned to Cape Breton.

Now, she owns Internet Search Media Cape Breton, which offers Internet marketing, website development and social media training, based in her hometown of Glace Bay. She has also gotten involved with the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, chairing the barriers to business growth committee.

Southwell seems like a good example of the type of entrepreneur that Dan Christmas, special adviser to the Membertou band and member of the recent Ray Ivany commission on the Nova Scotia economy, said the province needs to encourage if it is to move forward when he spoke Monday to the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting.

“It was very uplifting,” Southwell said of Christmas’s remarks. “It gave hope for the future and hopefully we get some more businesses opening up in Cape Breton and the CBRM and we see more exporting and bringing lots of money into our economy and help us grow.”

The status quo is not sustainable and people cannot continue to look to government to solve the province’s economic woes, Christmas said.

“We could see very clearly that Nova Scotia was heading into a period of decline and unless we changed our course now, we could expect a much lower standard of living in the not-so-distant future,” he said.

The province needs to encourage entrepreneurs and businesses that are export-oriented, Christmas said. The province needs to make a radical change, not tweaks, he added. More businesses and more successful businesses mean more revenue for the province.

“We need change at the core of our communities and at the core of our institutions to avoid going over an economic cliff,” Christmas said.

“We need more business startups, we need more business successes, we need more business growth and expansion.”

The province needs more people like Cape Breton entrepreneurs Joe Shannon, Annette Verschuren, and the late Irving Schwartz and Hugh Tweedie, Christmas said.

He said Membertou has undergone a dramatic economic transformation in the past 15 years, becoming the fourth-largest employer in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Paul Carrigan is the newly installed president of the chamber, replacing John MacNeil, who served in the position for two years.

“I’ve been involved in the chamber for many years and I had it in my mind the last few years to try and achieve the presidency, I want to visit businesses and try to encourage and motivate people into thinking how to develop Cape Breton and how to make things better,” he said.

He said the Cape Breton economy has been at a crossroads for some time.

“We’re quite resilient. I believe the province will be able to encourage us as well, but I think that it’s up to the people.”

It’s up to every Cape Bretoner to provide assistance, assurance and encouragement to young entrepreneurs, Carrigan added.

Christmas presented the challenges facing the Nova Scotia economy, which is not a positive situation, but in a way that encourages people to take action, he said.

Organizations: Area Chamber of Commerce, Acadia University, Search Media Cape Breton Ray Ivany commission

Geographic location: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Sydney Glace Bay

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