Highlights of a busy year for the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) include opening another office and ongoing work on an expanded website.
“Things have been going really well,” ESREN chief executive officer John Beaton said in a year-end interview.
As for the third location, which is located on Main Street in downtown Antigonish, it has provided ESREN with the space to hire an executive assistant.
Lynne Delorey will begin in that position in early January.
“Our current Antigonish office space will likely not be a permanent one, as we continue to take steps to assist in building a business enterprise centre for Antigonish town and county,” Beaton noted.
Early in 2018, ESREN will also launch an expanded website.
“This past year, we completed the bulk of our web design work,” Beaton explained.
“Edits by our team continue, on a regular basis, however, we are getting to a point, where it is becoming a good reflection of what we do.”
That website will serve as home to ESREN’s investment database web map viewer, which Beaton said will provide investors with answers about assets in the region.
“This was one of the first truly regional larger-scale projects that we took on,” he added.
The database includes information on commercial properties for sale, specific zoning for different areas, and selling points for each sub region, natural resource assets – such as forestry or geology, business listings, aquaculture sites, power-grid infrastructure, broadband and cell coverage.
“It will be a great tool for potential investors,” Beaton said, adding the database will include “many, many map layers.”
“You will have all the details,” he added.
Start-Up Port Hawkesbury
Describing it as one of ESREN’s “higher profile” projects of the year, Beaton reflected on Start-Up Port Hawkesbury.
“It was so successful – we had great results,” he said.
Beaton added that not only the contest winner – Michelle Tabensky of That Dog Place – but also the runners-up; Proud Maritimer Marketing (Jason Horton, Jude, Max and Weldon Long) and Island Enigmas (Liam Brophy), are launching their businesses.
“We are working with them all,” Beaton said, noting many other participants in the inaugural contest are talking about opening businesses.
Start-Up Port Hawkesbury – a partnership between ESREN and the Town of Port Hawkesbury – was a three-round Dragon’s Den-esque type of contest – where business hopefuls pitched their ideas to judges.
As the winner, Tabensky will receive two years of free municipally-owned commercial space in Port Hawkesbury, along with $20,000 in pre-approved financing from CBDC.
“We are continuing to explore options with other ESREN municipalities,” Beaton said of continuing the start-up initiative.
Unlike in Port Hawkesbury, he noted, the “big challenge” in other parts of the region will be finding office space.
Once that piece of the puzzle is found, he said the other components, such as pro-bono legal, graphic design, bookkeeping and other services came together quickly.
“It became really easy to build a package,” Beaton added.
He noted Start-Up Port Hawkesbury – and its success – greatly reflects a focus on the Ivany Report goal “to improve the entrepreneurship culture in the region.”
Business Improvement District
Looking ahead, Beaton touched on plans for the implementation of a Business Improvement District (BID) – with business community approval – which is a strategy to attract more business and tourism traffic to Antigonish, including the hiring of someone to focus on marketing the area, which will include travelling to trade shows.
“Someone to get the message out about business activity,” Beaton said, noting they are currently building a structure to fund that position.
Through BusinsessNow, ESREN and its partners will focus on identifying and supporting businesses. As the ESREN website describes, it is “an internationally-renowned business retention and expansion program that has proven successful across Canada and around the globe.”
As part of BusinessNow, there will be an ‘action team’ established – made up of government and industry representatives – who can help business owners with challenges and opportunities.
In 2018, ESREN will work towards establishing an immigration connector program, while also working with the District of St. Mary’s on business revitalization.
Beaton noted there are also plans for “sector-focussed” roundtables in areas such as retail, fisheries and applied research.
For more information about ESREN, visit esren.ca