By Stephen Hawboldt
The province is planning to replace the regional development authorities such as the Annapolis Digby Economic Development Agency (ADEDA) with regional enterprise networks (REN) covering much large geographic areas. At their committee of the whole last week, Annapolis County councillors endorsed a report prepared by four councillors and county staff questions this approach.
The report, prepared for council by Councillors Gregory Heming, Tim Habinski, Paul McDonald, and Alex Morrison with staff support from economic development officer Cody Joudry, raises several concerns. Some are related to the changes in the geographic focus and the difficulties in developing new working relationships among communities with little history of collaboration.
The REN for this region would stretch from Windsor to Annapolis Royal and encompass the three rural municipalities and all eight towns. The Digby area, which is a partner with Annapolis County on several initiatives, would be excluded from this REN. The new REN area would be similar to that served by the Valley Waste Resource Management, the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, and Annapolis Valley Health.
The authors also question the development philosophy that they see as the driving force behind the creation of the REN. They are concerned that the focus is on promoting mega-projects such as ship-building, offshore oil exploration and others. They say that there is a history of promoting “trickle down economics,” based in the belief that growth in urban centers supports rural areas. They assert, “this approach as not worked in the past.”
In their report, the councillors favour strategies and innovations that, “build on what we have.” They say efforts should be focused on, “support for existing employers that understand the unique character and geography of Annapolis County.”
Later this month, the councillors will present their findings to a regional meeting called to discuss the formation of the regional enterprise networks.
The provincial changes to regional development came after the federal government chopped funding to regional development authorities last year.