© File photo
CORNER BROOK — After a rough start to 2013, Mayor Charles Pender and his council hope the fortunes of Corner Brook will turn around in the new year and beyond.
A year ago, the ominous clouds of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper’s uncertain future loomed large over the entire region as the paper company continued to work out deals with all of its unions in order to access a $110-million loan from the provincial government.
Then, in the spring, the area was hit hard — like most other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador — by the lean provincial budget that cut back on spending, shut various programs and put people out of work.
“We started out 2013 with a bit of a rough first seven or eight months,” said Pender in a year-end interview with The Western Star.
“I think some of those things have settled a bit.”
Pender and five of the other six members of city council were just regular citizens until they were elected in late September. They see their civic duty as helping turn the local economy around.
Pender and his council claimed to be leading by example as they cut back on some discretionary spending, like council travel, and froze council remuneration for the remainder of their term in office.
In its 2014 budget plan, council included a review of the entire municipal operation to find further savings.
Creating a road map for what the next four years and beyond will look like is an important step, said Pender, in Corner Brook shrugging off its reputation for not being a great place to do business.
“Whether it was true or not, the perception was that Corner Brook is a bad place to do business,” said Pender. “We have to turn that perception around and we have been doing our work to do that.”
Council has been meeting with the local business leaders and organizations and plans to do so again in the new year to keep in touch with what the community wants and needs to effect that positive change.
Pender said there are already signs that people are encouraged to invest in Corner Brook.
“We have met with people that are looking at doing investment in the city in the spring,” said Pender. “These are people who have been here before, but went away and they have come back hoping there has been a change.”
Corner Brook is ready to welcome that new business, said the mayor.