Spotlight on Nova Scotia
During the economic crisis, Nova Scotia seemed a safe harbour, but the province still needs time before it sees the prosperity it deserves.
As slowdown settled in last year, the province seemed to navigate away from any widespread losses and eventually posted one of the country’s lesser drops in growth, comparatively speaking. According to RBC Economics Research, Nova Scotia’s ultimate contraction in 2009 was only 0.3 per cent. However, those same analysts have positioned their expectations for Nova Scotia’s growth in 2010 at an estimated 2.2 per cent, the lowest in the country going forward.
The declining production of natural gas is cited as one reason for the slow turn around, together with lower energy prices—and international commodity prices in general—exemplified by a 50 per cent decline in gas exports for the first quarter of this year. As commodity prices toughen up, and as Nova Scotia begins seeing the benefits to production of projects like Deep Panuke in 2011, the province could yet experience a robust rebound.
But growth must come from multiple directions. Nova Scotia has traditionally been a very resource-based economy and the decline in those resources, with the fisheries being a prime example, meant that Nova Scotia suffered many of its losses well before the rest of the world began talking about slowdowns and recession. By the time auto plants were shutting down in southern Ontario in 2008, Nova Scotia had already lost major local manufacturing jobs like those at the TrentonWorks railcar assembly plant the year before, and the province’s own auto industry, the Volvo Halifax Assembly Plant, had been shut down for more than a decade already.
But diversification and the development of new sectors, capitalizing on the province’s assets, have filled some of the gaps and what exists now is a more mature and developed commercial landscape that has offered a degree of resilience for the Bluenose economy.
Industries such as information technology, tourism, and film have all seen growth in Nova Scotia, to complement the age-old trades of fishing, lumbering and farming which have diminished in the grand scheme. Manufacturing, for example, now accounts for 10.1 per cent of economic activity while resource-based industries sit at 7.5 per cent of the economy.
The province also boasts a highly educated workforce, according to Nova Scotia Business Inc., a crown corporation that seeks to advance business in the province. Nova Scotia is home to 11 universities and 13 community colleges. In its capital city, Halifax, you will find the highest ratio of educational facilities to population in North America. This has led to a full quarter of Haligonians having a university degree—the highest rate in Canada.
The Port of Halifax, “Canada’s Atlantic Gateway to the World”, stands as a doorway to both Europe and the eastern seaboard of the United States, being the most easterly full-service container port in North America and capable of handling Post-Panamax vessels up to 5,888 TEU via one of the deepest, ice-free natural harbours in the world.
Overall, Nova Scotia has put out the welcome mat to encourage businesses to locate in the province. KPMG’s 2010 survey of the lowest cost cities to do business places Atlantic Canadian cities like Halifax in half of their Top-10 rankings. Nova Scotia also provides tax credits for research and development and payroll rebates to firms setting up shop there, while business development agencies such as Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI, the investment arm of the province) provide additional financing, venture capital, and advisory services. NSBI has been responsible for helping attract major companies like Research In Motion, Citco Fund Services, and Longtail Studios to Nova Scotia.
The province wants to attract companies in the financial services sector, as well as IT companies with an emphasis on video game production and interactive media by offering an aggressive tax credit for digital media firms.
Another key sector of focus is in the defense and aerospace field, which matches well with the province’s proud history of military service—home to Canada’s largest naval base in Halifax among other branches. General Dynamics, for example, opened their state-of-the-art Halifax Engineering Facility and Maritime In-Service Support Centre of Excellence, in the fall of 2008, a facility designed and owned by Millbank First Nation.
The newly developing Green economy hasn’t eluded the province either, and, in a good news announcement for the people of Trenton, the shuttered TrentonWorks plant is being reopened and reinvented by South Korean firm Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering to manufacture wind turbine components—having taken over full ownership of the property in July.
Nova Scotia is relying on its ability to cast its nets to entice companies who value loyal, hardworking and talented workers, together with offering that well-known east coast hospitality and quality of life. As one of Canada’s oldest provinces, Nova Scotia has the history and experience to weather these storms as it charts new economic waters for its future.