A father and son start a family business. The business is destroyed by fire yet a new facility is rebuilt with better, more modern equipment, turning tragedy into a success story as the company grows to employ 11 people.
The scenario shows the resiliency that many Maritimers have. Hard work begets success. What makes the story even better is that it happened in rural Nova Scotia, right here in Antigonish.
In 2013, River’s Bend Wood Products was on top of its game, looking to expand markets. The provincial government announced the company would take part in the new Global Business Accelerator Program, part of the province’s jobsHere plan.
The program focussed on connecting Nova Scotia companies to business experts who would help companies reach global markets. With the program, businesses will be reimbursed 80 per cent, up to a maximum of $35,000, of the eligible costs of hiring the professional. River’s Bend was the type of success story last year’s Ray Ivany report celebrates and calls for, Nova Scotia government investing in rural entrepreneurs who are creating exports and jobs that will keep young people here.
“This program can help small businesses secure markets for future growth,” River’s Bend co-owner Paul van de Wiel said at the time.
Two years later and River’s Bend is closing its doors. Not because of lack of market for the products it makes, but because they cannot secure enough local hardwood to make it work.
Last week was a sad one for the van de Wiels, River’s Bend employees, Antigonish and the province. It was not supposed to be this way but once again it is a case where a family business, one that potentially could be passed down generation to generation, succumbs in part to the lure of the west as many woodlot owners headed to the oil patch these last few years.
While van de Wiel did not say it, one wonders if the successful opening of Port Hawkesbury Paper and the biomass generator in Port Hawkesbury has had an impact with woodlot owners. It is much easier to cut massive amout of softwood to send to the mill than to select hardwood in the woods and mill it for River’s Bend or any other business. The lack of access to Crown land now controlled by the paper company adds to the difficulties.
The government cannot save every small business yet the province needs to look at the impact of hardwood mills closing have on small and medium size businesses such as River’s Bend. Nova Scotia does not have many exporters and the loss of yet another discourages those entrepreneurs who would like to give it a go here in our great province.