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Western Newfoundland needs more tourism infrastructure, says panel of CEOs

Michelle Melendy, right, who owns a number of car dealerships in Corner Brook, discusses running a successful business during Thursday’s CEO panel discussion. On the left is Charlene Brophy, chief executive officer of the telemedicine company FONEMED.
Michelle Melendy, right, who owns a number of car dealerships in Corner Brook, discusses running a successful business during Thursday’s CEO panel discussion. On the left is Charlene Brophy, chief executive officer of the telemedicine company FONEMED.

They’ve all had success with their own enterprises, but when three business leaders were asked what emerging opportunities exist for entrepreneurs in western Newfoundland, they all said the same thing.

Tourism needs to be developed much more than what it is.

That was the answer all three chief executive officers agreed on when asked the question during a panel discussion hosted by the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade at Corner Brook’s city hall Thursday evening.

The three CEOs were Michelle Melendy, president of Western Toyota, Western Mazda, Western Kia and Western Motor Sports; Brian Chafe of Provincial Airlines; and Charlene Brophy of the telemedicine company FONEMED.

All three are not only members of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, but also have been named among the Top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada by Atlantic Business Magazine.

“I’ve always been somewhat disappointed that we’ve never fully leveraged the tourism industry on this side of the island,” said Chafe. “I really think it’s incumbent on business to invest in that.”

He said with the recent success of the Tony Award-winning musical “Come From away” on Broadway, even more people are going to want to come visit the province and western Newfoundland needs to be more ready for it.

It has to be the private sector that takes the bull by the horns, noted Chafe. People cannot sit back and wait for government to make it happen.

“If we don’t have the infrastructure to support that, it’s going to be the rising star falling off the cliff,” he said.

What else they said

Question: What was the best advice you ever received and what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

Michelle Melendy

“The most important advice is attitude. You really can’t change what’s happened to you in life but you can change your attitude in how you deal with it. That’s the key to success in business. My dad used to say ‘my staff is probably my biggest asset, but the bank won’t take them as collateral.’ If you really think about that, that is really laden with advice.”

Charlene Brophy

“For young entrepreneurs who are just getting started and wondering how to get started and if they should take a risk, my advice would be to manage your resources and try to have an aversion to debt as much as you can … Be careful to manage your risks and surround yourself with people (who know the business).”

Brian Chafe

“Create a playground for the creative and talented people to play and have fun … Bring in the smart people and when you get those smart people in your company, listen to them and let them do what they’re going to do. Some of the biggest failures we have are when we try and control things and do things our way. There are many different ways to get to the end goal if you’ve got smart people and a good team. Create that environment for them to be successful and nurture that success. I’m here today because I have a great team, not because I’m super special.”

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