Improving broadband Internet access between St. Barbe and Trout River is high priority for the Red Ochre Regional Board in 2012.
The organization hopes it can leverage support from service providers to get more communities connected to high-speed Internet.
Access to information technology is critical for business growth in the region, outgoing chairwoman Gloria Toope noted in her final report, which was presented at the organization’s recent annual general meeting.
“The board will continue to follow up with service providers and funding agencies to promote additional expansion of Internet connections in the zone within the next three years,” she said.
Toope’s report pointed out that only 38 per cent of the more than 300 businesses in the region used email and had their own websites, and just 57 per cent of the population — estimated in 2010 to be 8,968 — had access to broadband Internet.
The drive for better connectivity was one of several messages delivered at the AGM in Hawkes Bay.
Toope’s report also touched on the economic development board’s funding proposal for the establishment of five communication centres: at Plum Point, Port Saunders, Parsons Pond, Norris Point and Woody Point.
The centres would provide video and teleconference access for community groups and business owners.
The report also discussed tourism potential and the importance of the port of St. Barbe.
According to the group’s data, more than 186,000 tourists visited the Northern Peninsula in 2010 and 2011 and of those, more than 80,000 travelled through the port of St. Barbe.
“This volume of traffic is changing the nature of tourism and transportation services …,” the report stated.
The board is working with the geospatial research facility at the College of the North Atlantic to identify existing infrastructure in the port.
According to the board’s latest labour market profile, tourism contributes $45.4 million per year to the economy of the region, employing 1,580 people in more than 150 direct and indirect businesses in the tourism and service sector.
Public service — through 14 municipalities, Parks Canada, the Western School District and Western Health — contributed $66.8 million per year in economic value to the region and employed 668 people.
The economic value of the fishery has declined from almost $50 million per year in 2008 to $35 million in 2011. Eight fish plants, 467 fishing boats and one salmon hatchery employ 564 fish harvesters and 499 plant workers.
Nalcor’s vice-president for the Lower Churchill, Gilbert Bennett, delivered a presentation on the proposed Lower Churchill transmission line.
Bennett answered questions from the floor after his presentation, which gave a comprehensive overview of the project including the work underway in the Strait of Belle Isle near Shoal Cove and Forteau.
The Northern Pen