Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton had not trouble finding the word to describe 2017 in the Town of Port Hawkesbury.
“To sum up the year – one simple word – ‘busy,’” she said.
Chisholm-Beaton added there have been several initiatives, including construction projects, along with “ideas for the future,” which have been part of that busyness.
The municipality continued its drive towards revitalizing its main thoroughfare.
Destination Reeves Street is a strategy for improving its potential, as an outline of the initiative describes, through “renewal and revitalization.”
“It is extremely important,” Chisholm-Beaton said of that plan, one that will continue to move along in 2018.
Along with the Reeves Street revitalization, the town has turned its focus to Nepean Street and the waterfront area.
As for other highlights of the year, Chisholm-Beaton described the recently-completed Start-Up Port Hawkesbury, the collaboration with the Eastern Strait Region Enterprise Network (ESREN), as “really neat.”
Discussions that produced the Dragon’s Den-like business proposal contest started with the town exploring ways in which to better utilize empty municipal space that continues to have their integrity maintained, such as heating and lighting.
“We thought there could be a way to incubate new or fledgling businesses,” Chisholm-Beaton said.
She added town officials “really liked the idea.”
That ‘idea’ started with 20 contestants, whittled down to 10 and then three finalists, who pitched their businesses.
Michelle Tabensky of That Dog Place, the eventual winner selected by a panel of judges in late November, received two years of rent-free office space in Port Hawkesbury, along with $20,000 in pre-approved financing from CBDC.
Pro-bono legal, graphic design, bookkeeping and other services were also part of the prize package.
“We had some wonderful outcomes,” Chisholm-Beaton said, adding it “cultivated a start-up culture.”
She noted the contest is now a model under consideration in other parts of the province.
Chisholm-Beaton also praised the work of Celtic Air Services – the company that took over operations and marketing aspects of Port Hawkesbury Airport in July – noting their “tremendous growth and success.”
“They want to see it thrive,” she said of those running the airport, which she called “an important piece of infrastructure” for the Strait region.
Chisholm-Beaton also applauded council’s recent decision to rename the facility after Allan J. MacEachen.
“I think it will be an honour for it to bear his name,” she said.
In 2017, and continuing forward, Chisholm-Beaton said municipal officials are “constantly learning how to stretch the dollar.”
She added they have become “experts in that area.”
“We know how to do more with less,” she noted.
More to come
In the coming year, Chisholm-Beaton said there are “interesting things” in store for not only the Town of Port Hawkesbury, but also the entire Strait region.
She noted town officials hope to breathe new life into an empty Granville Street building as part of enhancing cultural opportunities for the community.
The town has been working with the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design to develop an artists-in-residence program.
“It is going to be really exciting,” Chisholm-Beaton said.
She also touched on the continuing work of a new waterfront committee that formed last April.
“It is a focus on rejuvenating the entire perimeter of our town – uptown and the waterfront,” Chisholm-Beaton said, referencing that group’s involvement with a planned gateway park along Granville Street.
Chisholm-Beaton stressed the importance of citizen engagement, with these and other projects, as part of a “collaborative process.”
“How do we get it right?” she said, in providing a safe space for people to “thrive and grow,” as part of an effort to “strengthen communities,” ones that are age-friendly.
Speaking of collaboration, Chisholm-Beaton talked about Raising the Villages, a partnership between the town, Victoria and Inverness counties, along with Waycobah and Wagmatcook First Nation communities, which focuses on creating “more welcoming [communities] and providing support for young families.”
As for “municipal co-operation,” Chisholm-Beaton noted Port Hawkesbury hosted the One Cape Breton: Future Forward Leaders’ Summit, which brought together First Nations and municipal leaders in late November.
“It felt promising to have – all leaders [together] – to talk about our future,” Chisholm-Beaton said.
“It was a great opportunity to build relationships and start conversations that will be such as key.”