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Cumberland County business leaders talk about growing the local economy

Stephen Emmerson, president and CEO of Emmerson Packaging, speaks to a business audience during a panel discussion at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre on Thursday.
Stephen Emmerson, president and CEO of Emmerson Packaging, speaks to a business audience during a panel discussion at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre on Thursday. - Darrell Cole
AMHERST, N.S. —

If Cumberland County is going to grow economically its people have to lead the charge because government can’t be expected to.

Speaking during a morning breakfast led by Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin in partnership with the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce, the president and CEO of Emmerson Packaging said the past has seen the community waiting on governments to create jobs and improve the economy.

Stephen Emmerson said many believe the definition of wealth is affluence, but to him it’s about choice and the ability to make your own choices without having to wait for someone else to do it.

“That's the problem with society today. We are too prepared to let someone else make our choices for us, whether it’s government, a spouse or someone who influences your life in a negative way - they are making the choices for you if you’re not making them yourself,” Emmerson told a business crowd at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre on Thursday. “The problem in Canada is we’re letting government make too many choices for us.”

Entrepreneurs, he said, need to take more responsibility for making better choices for themselves and their businesses. He added that success involves risk and taking chances.

Emmerson, who runs one of the largest employers in Amherst, said along with taking risks, business people have to know where they want to go with their company and set big, audacious goals.

“If you want to get somewhere, you have to know where you’re going,” he said. “You need to plan for where you’re going to be in a week, a year from now, a month from now or 10 years from now whether it’s as a person or as an organization. Where are you going?”

The Ivany Report pointed out the status quo is not an option for Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians should not expect government to shoulder the burden. Emmerson has grabbed onto that and quoting Sylvester Stallone when he says the world is a tough place and will beat you to the ground if you let it.

The business leader, who played a key role in the creation of the Cumberland Business Connector along with several other Amherst businesspeople, said those in business will be hit, but it’s how they react after being hit and how they keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

“People misunderstand sometimes what it takes to succeed,” said Emmerson. “I don’t care you are or how much opportunity you’ve been given or how much affluence you have, the same rules apply to everybody.”

The best advice he could give is to have a vision, start mapping out a plan and push yourself to be great. Setting a strategy is easy but getting there can be hard and it’s important for entrepreneurs to explain to their employees what’s in it for them.

Most importantly, he added, never give up.

Emmerson also urged people not be jealous of others’ success and stressed that wealth and success should not be viewed as a bad thing in the community.

Smith-McCrossin said her goal has always been to help build a strong, thriving economy in Cumberland North. She said the Ivany Report said the private sector and government need a shared vision to drive the economy forward and she’s optimistic it can happen.

“We can no longer afford not to work together,” she said, adding it’s vital to improve productivity and competitiveness in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and fisheries. “My goal is not only for us to achieve the goals of the Ivany Report but to exceed them and I believe we can do it.

“Success and growth cannot be achieved if we use the business as usual strategy across public, private and community sectors.”

A healthy Cumberland North, she said, will be good to the county as a whole and the province.

She admitted there are many challenges in both the private sector and government, but she feels success can be achieved by not working in silos.

Joining Emmerson on the business panel were Jennifer Matthews from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Ian Ripley from the Athol Forestry Co-operative, Kevin Toth from Fox Harb’r Developments, dairy farmer Nick van Vulpen and Shawn Connell from Nova Scotia Power.

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