CORNER BROOK — Unable to secure any core operational funding, the Humber Economic Development Board will be closing its operation in the coming months.
Since May 2012, when the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced it was no longer funding regional economic boards, the local group had been exploring ways to remain open. There was a hope that community partners such as municipalities, regional development agencies, not-for-profit groups, tourism agencies, boards of trade, post-secondary institutions and government departments would present opportunities for sustainability.
While there was much support, according to board chair Glenda Garnier, the board found no financial commitment to maintain the economic development operation. She said it was particularly disappointing to see the provincial government also withdraw its funding to the group following the ACOA announcement.
“We are a little demoralized,” Garnier said.
“It’s a bit of a hard situation to be in. You know there is work that needs to be done and you have stuff underway that you know is going to be beneficial to the region.”
The loss of the Humber Economic Development Board, and other boards in various regions throughout the province, will reduce the amount of regional planning, the chair said. The networking that was provided through the group and for its projects and events will be missed, she said.
The funding cut also impacted the Red Ochre Regional Board and the Nordic Economic Development Corporation on the Northern Peninsula, the Long Range Regional Economic Development Board in Stephenville, and other boards throughout the province.
Garnier said economic development in the area will suffer without the operation.
“I can’t see how it won’t,” she said. “It is not only the loss of the board, there are a number of other factors in this region. There are the issues with the mill and the population is aging — all those things are factors that impact economic development.
“The loss of this board is going to leave a big gap.”
Three staff members — an executive director, an economic development officer and an administrative person — will also lose their jobs.
The board was an organization to which many smaller communities that lack funding for economic development turned for assistance, or to lead projects and write business or strategic plans.
There will be a legacy left from more than a decade of regional economic development through the Humber Economic Development Board. Outside of establishing programs such as Business Wings, staff helped erect infrastructure such as the Agricultural Resource Centre in Cormack, the Stanley Ford Museum in Jackson’s Arm, and the Pasadena Ski and Nature Park.
Garnier hopes some of these and other projects will continue with local support. She said the West Coast Developers Cooperative — a multi-partner initiative to develop non-timber forest products such as Christmas Trees and mushrooms, that are currently not being utilized — will go ahead. The incorporated group is expected to be set up in the coming months.
The Humber Economic Development Board will remain open, and operational, until its funding expires in May.