There are, and will be, a variety of opportunities
for growth in modern manufacturing (smaller facilities that can
re-tool quickly), the new, more technologically intense economy
and in the service sector. However, despite the opportunities for
expansions in manufacturing suggested by economic data and the advantages
of the SYSCO site for industrial siting, the CBRM has weaknesses
it must overcome.
First, the island is located at some distance from major markets.
This weakness could be overcome if the eastern Canadian offshore
hydrocarbon sector blooms. It can also be overcome with the creative
use of transportation and communication technologies.
The CBRM also faces a dual challenge providing for the labour force
displaced due to the decline of the traditional economic base, while
at the same time in-vesting in the infrastructure and training support
services needed to bring the new labour force into the new economy.
Thirty-five years of focus on supporting the steel and coal sectors
have left a large part of the labour force with gaps in the skill
sets needed by modern manufacturing and other emerging sectors that
are more technologically intense.
Several studies have documented these challenges. The Cape Breton
Growth Fund Corporation (CBGF) addressed the situation in "Growing
the New Economy: Findings of the Economic Adjustment Fund Public
Consultation process on Cape Breton Island” (Enterprise Cape
Breton Corporation, Spring, 2000). The Cape Breton County Economic
Development Authority (CBCEDA), and the CBGF and its
private sector working groups have begun to address these challenges.
They are implementing plans to renew the economic base via call
centres, spin-offs from environmental remediation, and higher technology
businesses, among others.
The re-development strategy for the SYSCO property provides one
of the tools (infrastructure for reuse) needed to provide new jobs
for displaced workers and new entrants to the labour force. However,
there will also be a need to continue with skills training, thus
ensuring that the skilled labour and management (especially middle
management) needed to attract business are available when companies
We believe that the long-term trend suggests that most of the direct
impacts of the downsizing of the primary fishery and the closure
of the coal mines and SYSCO have been absorbed by the CBRM economy.
Total employment has remained about the same, as has earned income.
This suggests that the underlying Island economy is producing jobs
independent of these elements of the historic economic base.