The Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce and Municipality of Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott are working to improve the lines of communication between government and the business community.
Scott was the speaker Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, at the first in a series of breakfast events between chamber members and leaders from all levels of government.
The chamber’s Breakfast With Your Representative provides business people an opportunity to sit down with their elected representatives to have a two-way discussion of current realities, challenges and opportunities.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the municipality and the chamber of commerce to sit down and talk about issues,” Scott said. “There is a variety of services that are offered through the municipality that directly impact business in Cumberland County, whether it’s in business construction, permits and planning. It’s important to understand the challenges we both face.”
Scott said it’s also about establishing and maintaining relationships and communication, so each organization knows what the other is facing.
“It’s something I hope we do on a continuing basis,” the mayor said. “I found it very productive and informative and we had a great exchange of information.”
The mayor told chamber members the municipality is facing many of the same challenges as business, including attracting and retaining workers. The mayor said the municipality has been working for several years to attract positions such as planners and building inspectors but is in competition with other municipalities and the private sector.
He said Cumberland County is in great shape financially, something that will be shown when the newest financial conditions index is released by the provincial government. Scott said the county is continuing to improve from several years ago when there were several red and a few yellow indicators to where the index should be mostly if not all, green.
“We’ve worked really hard over the last few years regarding our finances and finding some efficiencies. We’re seeing the positive results of that,” the mayor said. “We’re in really good shape financially, but we’re facing many of the same challenges our residents are.”
While assessments are up across the county, as they are across the province, the mayor said the county is also seeing increased financial pressures brought on by inflation, such as higher fuel and insurance costs.
“It’s up to us to find the balance,” the mayor said. “We’re not permitted to run a deficit and we will balance our budget.”
Chamber members asked the mayor questions about ways to improve procedural and regulatory requirements such as inspection services while there were also questions about the county’s ongoing policing services review, its fire services review and ensuring taxpayers get the best bang for their tax dollars.
The mayor was also asked about the status of the study on repairing the dikes along the Isthmus of Chignecto and the towns of Amherst and Sackville, N.B.
Chamber president Bill Dowe said the meeting was very helpful.
“It’s about increasing the understanding of what they are facing, what they can do to help our membership and what we can do to help them,” Dowe said.
Dowe said the meetings are key to heightening awareness of the chamber around the county as it moves from being an Amherst chamber to an organization representing businesses around Cumberland County. He’s looking for business leaders and residents to join and support the chamber and perhaps become members of the board so it can be a county-wide organization.
As a business owner, Dowe said policing is an issue to him as is the future of the isthmus.
“If the dikes fail it will have a huge economic impact not only for us but also all of Atlantic Canada,” Dowe said. “We need to be more proactive in implementing solutions as opposed to waiting for something to happen than trying to react – which will cost a lot more than fixing what needs to be done.”
Future sessions include Tuesday, Feb. 21, with Cumberland Colchester MP Stephen Ellis at the Dr. Carson & Marion Murray Community Centre in Springhill; Wednesday, Feb. 23, with Oxford Mayor Greg Henley; Tuesday, March 21, with Amherst Mayor David Kogan at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre in Amherst and Monday, May 15 (location to be announced) with Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.
To be announced is the meeting date for Cumberland South MLA and Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton.