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February 8, 2006
(Innovation, Trade and Rural Development)

Task Force provides update on Bay St. George initiatives

Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Kathy Dunderdale provided an update today on the activities of the Bay St. George Task Force, including the commencement of four initiatives for the area. The task force was established to assist the economic development and recovery of the Bay St. George region following Abitibi Consolidated�s shutdown of its Stephenville mill operations. The focus of the task force is to build on the strengths of the region, as well as build upon the successes of local businesses in the area.

The four projects identified are Natural Snack Alternatives Phases 1 and 2, the feasibility of establishing a Fire and Emergency First Responder Academy, the Downtown Revitalization Plan and a micro-lending program. Funding from the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development�s Small Business and Market Development Program (BMDP) and Regional Sectoral Diversification Fund (RSDF) has been allocated to assist with the implementation of these projects.

"The task force committed to keeping all stakeholders, including the general public, updated on our progress. We have been extremely busy assessing opportunities which have the ability to positively impact the local economy of this region. The projects announced today have the potential to assist the region do just that," said Minister Dunderdale, who chairs the task force. "We are at the beginning of the rebuilding process and there is still much to be done. The three committees of the task force continue to work to identify further opportunities for this region."

"As we are working diligently through the initial stages of diversifying and rebuilding our economy, it is important to recognize that all initiatives can have important impacts and can be stepping stones to larger successes," said Joan Burke, Minister of Education and MHA for St. George�s-Stephenville East. "It is equally important to keep everyone abreast of all initiatives, as this knowledge can be instrumental in fostering partnerships, spin-offs and further creative thinking."

Cyril Organ, Chair of the task force�s Community Development Committee, added, "Our region is going through tremendous change and challenges right now. The only way for us to truly assist ourselves and our community is to embrace innovative ways to build our local economy that provide meaningful employment opportunities to our residents. While these projects have the potential to create new avenues of industry and growth in our region, we are continuously evaluating further initiatives that hold similar or even greater potential, and more initiatives will be developed in the future."

"I am thoroughly pleased with the work of the Bay St. George Task Force and the work of the Ministerial Committee and the Community Development Committee," Port au Port MHA Jim Hodder said. "I have a positive feeling that things will work out in the Stephenville, Bay St. George and Port au Port areas in the long term."

K-Tech Solutions of Stephenville, a subsidiary of Atlantic Catering, will begin the Natural Snack Alternatives project by investigating using locally-grown second grade carrot, turnip and potatoes in �sliced and diced� manufactured products, as well as potato wedges. Phases 1 and 2 will include completing engineering drawings for the kitchen facilities, as well as the marketing and pre-testing of these products in an attempt to secure long-term markets for local farm products. This project marks the first attempt in this region to manufacture pre-packaged food services meals. It is a major step towards growing the agriculture potential of Bay St. George, South Codroy Valley, Port au Port and Western Newfoundland in general. It is anticipated that two to four full-time positions will be initially created, with potential to double employment by year two. Also partnering with government on this project is the College of the North Atlantic and the local farmers, who are currently exploring the formation of a cooperative. The project will receive $25,000 from BMDP.

The Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland and the College of the North Atlantic will use $35,000 from RSDF to study the feasibility of establishing a Fire and Emergency First Responder Academy for Atlantic Canada in Stephenville. Building upon the successful Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre in the town, the academy would provide full service education and training, consulting and research in the fields of fire fighting and emergency services. The creation of a fire and emergency response academy will grow the sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, and provide Atlantic Canadians with a means of gaining education and professional development in these fields. The feasibility study, which will determine the viability of establishing an academy in Atlantic Canada, will employ one full-time contractual position.

The Town of Stephenville has been awarded $123,353 from RSDF to begin the first phase of a multi-phased approach to revitalize the downtown core of the town. The Stephenville Downtown Business Improvement Association is seeking to complete Phase 3 of its downtown revitalization plan. The project will involve installing 36 old-fashioned street lights. This initiative will make the downtown area more aesthetically appealing, with the goal of maintaining and increasing the number of shoppers in order to ensure the long-term viability of downtown businesses. Local consumers are electing to travel less and to make their daily purchases within Stephenville. It is important to take advantage of this trend, maximizing on opportunities to cater to local shoppers and assist local businesses. It is anticipated that the direct economic benefits of this initiative will result in a $500,000 capital expenditure in the town that will provide employment to approximately six to eight individuals for a three-month period. Further infrastructure development as part of the phased approach will be advanced in coming months.

In addition to the three initiatives outlined above, the task force has selected the Bay St. George region as the location for a provincial micro-lending pilot program, through which loans in incremental steps will be distributed to qualifying small businesses, including home-based businesses.

The Small Business and Market Development Program provides new entrepreneurs and expanding small businesses with funding to help them acquire the necessary expertise to pursue new business ideas and new markets for their products or services. The program is intended to support new growth opportunities in the economy such as value-added manufacturing activities and export-oriented opportunities.

The Regional Sectoral Diversification Fund provides financial support for the development and implementation of economic initiatives towards sector and regional priorities by way of non-repayable contributions to eligible organizations.

Media contact: Lynn Evans, Communications, (709) 729-4570, 690-6290

2006 02 08                                         11:35 a.m.

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