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Innovation, Business and Rural Development
January 22, 2013

The following are speaking notes delivered by the Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, Minister Responsible for the Research & Development Corporation, and Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement, at Northern Exposure 2013 in St. John’s:

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Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to be here today on behalf of the Premier to speak at the first-ever Northern Exposure Conference and Trade Show. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

I know a conference and trade show such as this takes the dedicated efforts of quite a few individuals and organizations.

In particular, I’d like to note the efforts of the organizer for this event - the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce. As a non-profit organization made up of businesses, professionals, and community groups, The Labrador North Chamber of Commerce promotes and improves trade and commerce, and the economic, civil, and social welfare of the Central Labrador region. Thank you for your work on this conference and in your region.

I’d also like to thank the sponsors for today’s luncheon - Provincial Airlines and the Innu Mikun Airlines.

Labrador is a place rich with stories and traditions, diverse cultures, natural beauty, and boundless adventure. It’s also a place of great potential – the reason we are all here today.

Certainly, small- and medium-sized enterprises are needed to support the major industrial projects in Labrador. This conference presents the forum for companies to learn more about the growing business and partnership opportunities.

As participants, you will have the opportunity to explore a number of key issues during this conference - Aboriginal business partnerships, mining and natural resources, northern transportation and infrastructure, and human resource strategies.

From the Provincial Government’s perspective, this conference provides an ideal opportunity to showcase Labrador locally, nationally, and internationally to expose the development opportunities and to collectively reduce challenges and hurdles that exist.

Today, I’d like to help set the stage for your conference. I’ll kick-start my presentation by providing you with a snap shot of how the provincial economy has grown. I’ll highlight some of the initiatives the Provincial Government is undertaking in Labrador; and I will explain the Provincial Government’s approach to helping build a successful business environment – an approach that encourages broad participation of the business community.

After all, the participation of small- and medium-sized enterprises like yours has proven to be invaluable to building the provincial economy. I know there has been risks taken and much hard work completed along the way. My respect and admiration goes out to those of you who wake up every day believing in yourselves, your business, and your province, despite challenges along the way.

As you know, the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador remains stronger than ever and is among the nation’s leaders in many areas.

Development of major projects has boosted capital investment to record levels, generated employment throughout the province, and raised consumer spending.

In fact, the total capital investment growth is expected to be about $9.7 billion, a 31.7 per cent increase over 2011.

Employment has grown to a record high of over 230,000. 2012 employment growth was the second highest among the provinces.

In fact, according to the Provincial Monitor report released last week by BMO Economics, Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to lead Canada in economic growth in 2013, with a real GDP growth rate of 4.5 per cent.

Any growing economy, while driven by the private sector and investment, needs to be supported by sound infrastructure and investment by government to encourage further development.

The continued strength we see in the provincial economy is due in part to our substantial infrastructure investments over the last few years which have protected us from the brunt of the global economic downturn while at the same time supporting growth and business development in communities throughout the province.

As part of our collective business attraction efforts, foreign investment in Newfoundland and Labrador continues to grow at an extremely high rate. In 2011, total foreign expenditures in all sectors totaled $3.6 billion, an increase from $2 billion in 2010, and $1.5 billion in 2009.

Several factors are helping attract new investments and companies to Newfoundland and Labrador’s business community, including major industrial projects, the continued development of new industry sectors, and business optimism – the highest in Canada.
Of course, nowhere in the province is business optimism higher than in Labrador, where we are seeing tremendous growth spurred by the bountiful opportunities in renewable energy and mining.

In December, the Provincial Government announced official sanction of the Muskrat Falls development, which had been identified as a key component of the comprehensive Energy Plan announced in 2007.

This plan is the first of its kind in our province's history and will be our guide over the next three decades as Newfoundland and Labrador takes its place in Canada as an energy super warehouse. A key objective of this strategy is to shift from reliance on costly nonrenewable fuels for electricity generation to reliance on cleaner renewable energy such as hydropower, which will help supply Labrador’s growing demands for power.

While Muskrat Falls is only the first phase of development of the Lower Churchill, it is a major project in its own right, offering substantial benefits. Muskrat Falls will generate 9,100 person-years of direct employment, including 5,800 in Labrador.

Under the province’s benefits strategy for the project, first consideration for employment will be given to members of Labrador’s Innu Nation and then qualified residents of Labrador before those from other parts of the province. As well, a Gender Equity Program and a Diversity Program will be incorporated into all phases of the project.

In addition, Labradorians and Labrador-based businesses will earn approximately $500 million during the six-year construction phase.

The Churchill River is not the only northern frontier where growth is occurring. The mining industry is also creating quite a buzz in Labrador with iron, nickel, copper, cobalt, rare-earth elements and rare metals, and uranium.

In fact, Newfoundland and Labrador’s mining industry is a major contributor to the provincial economy, and employs over 7,000 women and men throughout the province, particularly in our rural communities. It currently ranks second after oil in terms of revenue to the province and it represents 12 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product. It is important for us to do whatever we can to ensure the proper and successful development of our mineral resources and the sustainability of the industry for the long-term benefit of the province.

Our government has made Labrador’s needs and opportunities a provincial priority, as demonstrated through far-reaching initiatives such as the Northern Strategic Plan introduced in 2007.

Through this plan, the Provincial Government has helped to improve the health and well-being of all Labradorians through expanding infrastructure, improved the delivery of programs and services, and encouraged economic prosperity. Since 2007, more than $750 million has been invested in Northern Strategic Plan initiatives.

By the end of the current fiscal year, our government’s total spending in Labrador since 2004 will have exceeded $3 billion - and that investment has made a significant difference in the lives of people throughout the region.

Trans-Labrador Highway
Among the most significant investments under this plan was the Trans-Labrador Highway, which cuts through some of the most remote landscape in our province, connecting people, communities and commerce.

With a Budget 2012 investment of $65.8 million, the Provincial Government awarded two contracts to complete Phase I of the Trans Labrador Highway from Labrador West to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We are on scheduled to completing phase I in 2014.

It is a goal of the Provincial Government to foster a transportation network that meets the economic and social needs of the people in the province. The Trans Labrador Highway is the backbone of this network in Labrador.

Since 2004, the Provincial Government has invested approximately $452 million in the Trans Labrador Highway. Once Phase I is completed, we will move forward to Phases II and III.

Rural Broadband Initiative
In addition to connecting Labrador via the Trans-Labrador Highway, the Provincial Government has also been making substantial improvements to high speed Internet access in Labrador and throughout the province.

Since 2003, Provincial Government investments totalling $27 million have levered more than $115 million from other sources to address broadband access in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 2011, a $3 million investment from the Provincial Government, along with $8.3 million from Nalcor, was provided to enhance high-speed Internet access to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Churchill Falls; and existing service to Labrador City and Wabush.

This project provides crucial enhancements to the existing broadband infrastructure from Labrador West to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and could serve as the foundation for future broadband expansion and connectivity throughout southern and northern Labrador.

Scheduled to be completed in the coming months, the project will facilitate the availability of communication services to the Muskrat Falls construction site and the workers who will be employed at the largest construction project in the province's history.

It will also support growth in residential housing and small business to support this mega project as well as other major resource projects in the mining sector across Labrador.

In 2012, we initiated another Rural Broadband Initiative call for proposals which closed in November 2012. In this year’s call, the use of fibre, satellite, wireless, fixed wireless, and cellular technologies, are all allowable options in creating greater broadband access.

Through this year’s Rural Broadband Initiative, we are currently working with industry, community, and government partners to identify areas where we can support our ongoing broadband infrastructure improvements. In the coming weeks we will be looking to announce the successful submissions and continue to build on the progress achieved to date.

Arctic Opportunities Initiative
At this time, I’d like to take you a little further North - to the Arctic - where significant change is occurring and a variety of economic development opportunities continue to emerge.

Newfoundland and Labrador is a landmark location for opportunities in the Arctic in areas such as transportation and logistical expertise, and well-established industrial infrastructure. We also have an innovative ocean technology cluster of companies, as well as leaders in academic and skills development programs, particularly in remote northern education, such as the Marine Institute of Memorial University.

Geographically, Newfoundland and Labrador is strategically located on international shipping lanes, with ports in Labrador such as Goose Bay, Rigolet, and Cartwright providing direct access to Arctic sea routes, further positioning the province as a natural gateway to the Arctic.

There are many opportunities in the Arctic for Newfoundland and Labrador, especially as it relates to the development of natural resources, transportation and logistics, industrial supply and service, research and development, education and training, building partnerships, tourism, and more.

Companies in Newfoundland and Labrador are engaged in activity in the North, but much more opportunity exists.

We recently launched the Arctic Opportunities Initiative – through which we are identifying opportunities in the Arctic, building knowledge and capacity, and creating awareness about Newfoundland and Labrador’s abundant expertise and capabilities related to the Arctic.

In fall 2012, as part of the Arctic Opportunities Initiative, the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development began stakeholder engagement sessions.

We are continuing these consultations and will have discussions with members of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Aboriginal communities in the upcoming months.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to working cooperatively and collaboratively with all stakeholders as the Arctic Opportunities Initiative continues to move forward with the development of a provincial action plan to take full advantage of the opportunities ahead in the Arctic.

My department - Innovation, Business and Rural Development - is the lead agency for economic development in the province and in each of its regions.

I am also responsible for the Research and Development Corporation, which provides leadership, strategic focus, and investments in order to strengthen and improve the research system throughout the province.

Throughout our work, we create and maintain a competitive economic environment that supports private sector business growth, entrepreneurship, innovation, and long-term sustainable employment opportunities for the people of the province. Our work is done through 22 regional locations across the province, including Labrador.

We work with companies in Newfoundland and Labrador to support ventures that contribute to the development of supply chains and increasing capacity within the province to drive key sectors of the economy.

This can occur, for example, through the establishment of joint ventures with companies outside the province, as well as between companies within the province.

We also help to connect enterprises with angel investment and venture capital networks. As well, we work with other provincial partners to help clients of small- and medium-sized enterprises prepare for investment.

Supplier Development Program
In today’s discussion, one program that is extremely important is the Supplier Development Program, which is helping local companies identify new business opportunities within major industrial projects.

This program helps connect small- and medium-sized enterprises with large industrial projects by making them aware of how the supply chain for those projects works and introducing them to the specific opportunities and players involved. This is particularly important for upcoming projects in Labrador. This conference provides an opportunity for valuable contacts to be made in this regard.

My department has organized over 60 supplier development events. These were attended by in excess of 1,300 people from local businesses who gained valuable insight and knowledge into the supply chain.

We have also developed a manufacturers' data base that contains information on over 500 manufacturing companies in the province.

This data base can be a valuable source of information to help companies identify potential products for their supply chain requirements.

As a department, we will continue to work closely with Nalcor Energy to explore opportunities for local suppliers. A working group to identify these opportunities will be formed between my officials and Nalcor Energy. In addition to the creation of thousands of jobs, these projects demand an incredible amount of products and services.

Nalcor Energy and SNC-Lavalin will give consideration to provincial suppliers and contractors to participate in the supply of goods and services.

The scope of that work is tremendous. It includes everything from electrical and concrete to turbines and generators. The opportunities are immense.

I encourage all businesses to learn more about our Supplier Development Program. It is an important initiative that connects vendors and procurers to help ensure that the maximum benefits are realized for Newfoundland and Labrador businesses.

Labrador West Task Force
I want to take a minute now to speak about the Labrador West Task Force. Fortunately, Labrador West is immersed in growth. This offers communities many opportunities for the future, but also puts immediate attention on certain ‘pressure points’ that need to be addressed in areas such as infrastructure, social programs, and housing.

To help manage this growth and the impact on communities, the Iron Ore Company of Canada brought together the Labrador West Task Force last year.

The task force consists of community, business and government – all of which are looking for solutions.

More specifically, the group includes senior officials of the mining companies in Labrador West, a variety of Provincial Government departments, the Federal Government, and mayors representing the towns affected.

The coordination efforts for this task force are being undertaken by Janice Barnes, who is the executive director of the Labrador Affairs Office in Wabush. It is through collaborative efforts such as these that we are developing action plans to deal with specific issues within the Labrador West region.

Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Opportunities
The Provincial Government is focused on working with municipalities, industry and other partners to build strong regions and communities that can be prepared for growth and sustainability. An important part is ensuring that we have the people and skills in those communities to maximize benefits for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

In this regard, we have undertaken aggressive work in skilled trades and apprenticeship opportunities.

We recognize that there continues to be a high demand for skilled tradespersons in the province’s energy, mining and industrial sectors with numerous large-scale labour projects in development.

Consequently, the Provincial Government is investing more than $48 million annually to support apprentices.

Since 2007, the number of registered apprentices in Newfoundland and Labrador has risen from 3,464 to 5,782, an increase of 67 per cent.

In that same time, the number of journeyperson certificates issued annually has risen from 340 to 557, an increase of 64 per cent. We need to continue to grow these numbers.

It is through programs such as these that the Provincial Government is helping people take advantage of new opportunities in the area of skilled trades and ensuring a highly-qualified workforce to meet industry demands.

This conference offers you the place to network with like-minded individuals from government, academia, and industry.

I invite you to visit the Natural Resources booth at this event, where you will find materials from our department. I also invite you to visit the Research and Development Corporation’s booth. As well, have a chat with staff from our department, RDC, and government representatives who are here at this conference.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we are fortunate to be working in an economy that is the best it has been in recent history.

Our government continues it its efforts to ensure Labrador benefits from the tremendous opportunities offered by our strong economy.

In this regard, we are focused on building a successful business environment in Labrador to encourage the realization of investment opportunities by companies such as yours that are contributing immensely to the economy today and are leading the way to future success.

As Premier Dunderdale said at the Northern Lights 2012 Business and Cultural Showcase in Ottawa last February: let us move boldly to the great destiny awaiting our Northern regions, our provinces and our country…and continue to lead the way.

Thank you again to the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce. Good luck with your conference and trade show.

2013 01 22             4:45 p.m.

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