Two economic conferences coming to St. F.X., at the start of June, could mean positive economic spin-offs for the town and region.
St. F.X. professor Greg Tkacz, the local organizer for the conferences, said attendance for the Canadian Economics Association Conference, June 1 to 4, and the Atlantic Canadian Economics Association Conference, June 4 and 5, is “looking around 750 people, give or take.”
“There is overlap between the two so most people will be attending both conferences; it would be the same people,” Tkacz said.
He noted the annual conferences usually take place in larger locations; especially the first one listed which is for the national association.
“It’s something that typically rotates amongst the bigger universities in the bigger centers; Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” he said.
“But, for the first time, it’s coming to small town Nova Scotia. Definitely, they’re taking a risk on this one, but they want to see how things work out here. There is, definitely, some appetite to move away from some of the bigger locations, to try something different, once in a while.”
Tkacz talked about St. F.X. and Antigonish coming together as a host venue.
“That’s one of the big things we’re trying to promote here; it’s not just the university but the entire town and region itself,” he said.
“We’re trying to use that to attract people and show them what we have here. In fact, we’re working very closely with some community leaders to try and get people off the campus, when they do get to town, and explore a little bit of what Antigonish has to offer, either in the downtown core or region as a whole.”
Part of the conference attendees’ experience will be a lobster banquet.
“That’s not a coincidence with this being the middle of the lobster season here,” Tkacz said. “We really want to promote that aspect and, again, it’s actually a bit of a draw to get people here; by saying we’re going to have a lobster banquet here, for the first time.
“People saw that as something very unique because, when it is held in the big cities, folks just tended to scatter at suppertime; when 5 p.m. rolled around, they all just tended to disappear and not see each other.
“But we thought; what a good opportunity this is to bring everyone together, in the same room. We’re going to have this in the Keating Centre; more than 700 people in the same room, and get them to hang out a little bit more, do a little bit of networking and so forth … I think it’s a win-win all around.”
Tkacz said the conferences are drawing people from all over the world.
“From 25 different countries,” he said, noting attendance looks like it will be 20 per cent coming from outside of Canada.
“It’s a pretty wide range of folks coming here,” he said.
“I’m just looking at the continents; we have North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and even Australia. I think the person coming from the furthest away is from Tasmania.
“So there is a good opportunity here to promote not just Antigonish, but the whole region and province, because this is a part of the world not many people get to see. One of the spinoffs we hope to achieve from this is; folks may decide to come back here, later on, to visit the region on vacation or even tell their friends or colleagues about the place … this could have some beneficial effects in the long run.”
The Antigonish Downtown Business Association is one of the community leaders Tkacz referred to and their chair, Jamie MacDonald, also talked about the great opportunity being presented with St. F.X. hosting so many visitors.
“The conference is a great opportunity for the people of Antigonish, and surrounding community, to welcome the delegates to our special corner of the province,” MacDonald said. “There is so much to see and do in our region and it’s vital that we reach out to our visitors and express the vitality of our culture, music and hospitality.”
He talked about the ADBA, in consultation with Tkacz, coming up with the Main Street Music Fest, situated in the downtown, to be held June 1 to 3.
“The festival will be a combination of music, food and a taste of the Highlands,” he said, adding he hopes it will, “open the eyes of our visitors and show them the ‘Heart of the Highlands.’”
MacDonald is encouraging residents, of the town and county, to join in the fun June 1 to 3, “and welcome our friends from across the country and the world.”