Welcome, to Cape Breton Island
Last year saw Cape Breton taking comedic advantage of the controversy around the American presidential election with a social media campaign welcoming anti-Trump “refugees”. There was even a website, ‘Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins’ (www.cbiftrumpwins.com). While the site is a distinctly non-partisan attempt to increase immigration, Trump was the hook that won them global attention.
That ability to recognize an opportunity and act on it creatively is something that resilient Cape Breton Islanders do exceedingly well.
Perhaps this is why Keith MacDonald, President and CEO of Cape Breton Partnership, finds it easy to wax optimistically about the Island’s future prospects. Citing growing international markets for seafood and aquaculture, as well as a surging tourism industry and emerging opportunities in the ocean and educational sectors, he says that he’s “confident these activities, as well as many others, will help bolster the island’s economy moving forward.”
That’s not the least of Cape Breton’s strengths. From music and theatre to crafts and visual arts, the area is renowned for its cultural community, says MacDonald. Those talents are both fed and nurtured by the island’s natural beauty, which probably explains why so many residents will do whatever they can to stay. That, too, is a plus.
“Our region has a very dedicated workforce, which allows any new venture to be able to attract the talent they need to grow their company. Our companies generally do not experience high turnover rates in comparison to other regions of the country,” says MacDonald.
MacDonald’s organization is dedicated to helping Cape Breton build on those strengths so it can maximize its future potential. They’ve launched an investor-focused website (www.investincapebreton.com) that features a land and asset database as well as development opportunities. Their Mentor Connect program provides entrepreneurs with access to skills, advice and experience of a group of mentors. And, they’re partnering with the Cape Breton Regional Enterprise Network on BusinessNow, a business retention and expansion program that connects business owners with key government and industry representatives who can help them find timely solutions.
“Cape Breton is open for new business, and there are a number of assets that are ready for development,” says Macdonald.
One asset that’s already been developed, and operating successfully for over 75 years, is Keltic Lodge and Highlands Links — one of the largest tourism employers on the island.
Asked for his assessment of the area’s economic situation, General Manager Graham Hudson says the tourism sector has just had an excellent year and he predicts 2017 will be even better. “There’s certainly been a big boost in the economy through the golf industry on Cape Breton, with two new world-class golf courses. At Keltic Lodge and Highlands Links, we invested nearly $6 million in our facilities last year. We aim to be a year-round facility, which is why we have extensive renovations planned for the winter of 2018.”
“My personal thought is that Cape Breton will experience excellent growth in tourism, and there are some potentially large industrial activities developing on the island,” continues Hudson. “These are all positive indicators and cause for optimism.”
If there’s one thing you can count on from Cape Breton Islanders, it’s their ability to maximize an opportunity when they see it.