Local business community anticipates shipyard contract cash influx

Lynne Wells
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Nova Scotia companies hoping for a piece of the pie coming to Halifax due to the federal government shipbuilding contract are gearing up to meet the anticipated needs of Irving Shipyards.

Many firms in Burnside believe the Irving shipbuilding contract win can mean a win for them too. – File photo

Nova Scotia companies hoping for a piece of the pie coming to Halifax due to the federal government shipbuilding contract are gearing up to meet the anticipated needs of Irving Shipyards.

On Oct. 19, the federal government announced that the Halifax-based Irving Shipyards had won the major contract to build 21 Canadian combat ships at a cost of $25 billion over the next 30 years.

Even though the federal money won't start appearing in the Nova Scotia economy for at least a year, local economic activity has heated up as the business community anticipates the influx of cash and people associated with the project.

The first economic benefit stemming from the shipyard contract went to a local pizza outlet that supplied the food for the celebration following the announcement. Other businesses, such as publishing companies, are already seeing a boost in advertising sales as local companies jockey for a better position to win their own piece of the pie.

It's not all good news though. While larger metal fabricators such as Cherubini and RKO Steel ramp up infrastructure, etc., smaller metal fabricators are worrying about skilled labor shortages. And any number of companies have indicated that the shipyard contract has nothing to do with them.

Valerie Payn, CEO of the Halfiax Chamber of Commerce, based in Burnside, says every business should look at the shipyard contract through its own lens.

"Business owners need to ask themselves ‘What's in it for me?', because there will be something," she says. "It's not just for companies directly involved in shipbuilding. With the influx of jobs and people expected, we're hearing that even barbershops are looking forward to increased business."

Payn is adamant that spirits should remain high.

"The sense of confidence we feel flowing through the local business community is inspiring," she says. "The attitude is so bouyant and upbeat."

Eldon MacKeigan of Burnside's Sandler Sales says he's already working with clients, counselling them to take action now to be ready for the opportunities on the way.

"Those 18 months are going to fly by," he says. "Get the skills and knowledge, the people and equipment in place now so you'll be ready. A little work now will make you excel."

Mindful that other business across Canada and the U.S. will be looking to do business with Irving, MacKeigan says, "I don't want to hear anyone say, ‘They're taking all our money.' Yes, the competition will be moving in, so get ready to out-compete them."

Duncan Williams of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia says the true benefit of the shipyard contract will be in leveraging the potential of the project.

"If we can change our local economic environment from the adversarial development climate and hungry tax regime that we have now, than we can turn that $30 (sic) billion into $60 billion," he says. "We need a city and a provincial government that chases business, not the individual taxpayer."

Ryan Hartlen at the Remax office in Burnside says, like so many others, his company is very excited over the potential the shipbuilding contract will bring to the area in the next few years.

"We're optimistic the economic impact over the next few years will yield positive growth for both real estate values and activity in general," Hartlen says. " We feel this will mainly be due to demand for residential housing and commercial/industrial space based on employment growth. We have already heard stories of calls from clients ‘out west' looking to move back home in hopes of gaining long-term employment."

Even solid waste streams will be examined in light of the anticipated influx of people to Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). Gordon Helm, manager of HRM's Solid Waste Resources,says a waste strategy review will get underway in the new year.

"Waste programs are going to have to evolve to meet future capacity requirements as the city develops," Helm says. "Sudden population growth has potential impacts on our capacity, including the Miller composting site in Burnside and the technology we use."

Organizations: Halfiax Chamber of Commerce, Construction Association of Nova Scotia

Geographic location: Burnside, Nova Scotia, Canada U.S.

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