Economic diversification key to future of western Newfoundland: McLennon

Cory Hurley
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It will take an enterprising approach to provide a jolt to the western Newfoundland economy, so the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade is going to get bolder.

Sharon McLennon, first vice-president of the board, said the board has always taken leadership roles in economic development, but there is a realization that more needs to be done.

She told members of the Rotary Club of Corner Brook this week that there are three issues driving the organization’s work plan into the future — the need for economic diversification, business tax, and more collaboration to promote economic development and entrepreneurship.

McLennon says the area is still relying heavily on government, education and services to fuel its economy.

A major source of revenue for Newfoundland and Labrador in recent years has been the oil and gas sector. She said a responsible western Newfoundland industry should be promoted.

“Whatever comes out, it should meet or exceed government regulations,” she said. “It should build capacity in terms of research and labour force and infrastructure. It should diversify the economy, and we think oil and gas should do it, if we get behind it. And, it should also balance the risk and rewards.”

McLennon said it should only be done if it is safe for the environment and people.

“We can be a model for how we do economic development here, and oil and gas industry development,” she said. “Let’s do it better. Let’s find the best technologies, the best practices.”

Fracking is only one piece of the industry, but she urges government really delve into its research on that technology and to also customize it for western Newfoundland and its geology. She encourages a more balanced approach to the debate and discussion.

“It is really important that we present and we hear the science of that oil and gas development and technology,” she said.

“Up to now, I don’t think there has been enough information, and enough balanced information based on the science.”

Without that balance, she said there could be opportunities lost.

In the meantime, it is important to continue to explore and promote conventional oil and gas development — which she feels is getting closer to getting to that commercial find in western Newfoundland and spurring an even greater interest.

McLennon said it is also important to promote and encourage business. She said there will be an effort to meet with industry stakeholders to better do so.

Entrepreneurs generate the employment and wealth to help improve services throughout the province, according to the first vice-president. The subsequent amenities will in turn attract more people here.

There is a debate between government officials and local people pertaining to such amenities as the services and equipment in the new hospital being built in Corner Brook. Population base, and usage, is one of the factors being considered in whether to house a radiation unit or PET scanner at the facility.

“It all goes hand-in-hand, you have a really good health care and education system, then you are going to keep business people here,” she said. “But, you will also attract others.”

Organizations: Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, Rotary Club of Corner Brook

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Corner Brook

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