With its future uncertain, the Northeast Avalon Regional Economic Development Board’s annual general meeting looked to its past.
The focus of Wednesday’s meeting, according to Christine Snow, the board’s executive director, was the board’s accomplishments over its 17-year history.
Touching on topics like worker recruitment and retention programs, labour-sharing and economic collaborations with other zones — and more than 26,000 hours of volunteer work by board and community members, the meeting is also the first for the board since the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency announced last month it would eliminate funding for regional economic development boards.
“This is our 16th AGM,” Snow said Wednesday. “We’ve accomplished a lot over the years, and we really want to bring that out. Sometimes we forget some of the stuff we’ve done. It’s more like a trip down memory lane as I’ve started to compile some of our work that we’ve done in the past.”
It’s not just an exercise in nostalgia. With the loss of its federal funding — which makes up about three-quarters of the board’s budget, with the remainder coming from the provincial government — the board and the invited community partners and entrepreneurs had a reminder of the work that’s at stake, said Snow.
She is confident the organization will survive, but the cuts present a fresh set of challenges.
“Part of what we’re going to talk about, is there enough interest within our community to move forward and review and have a look at our structure, governance, types of things that we can move into so that we can survive post-ACOA funding and take some of the work that we’ve been doing and building on it and making it a revenue-generating source.”
The board would still be a not-for-profit organization, but one focused on making money to sustain itself and to deliver programs and projects like its recent “Buy Local! Buy Fresh!” map of local food producers and supporters.
The cuts have caused a lot of turmoil at regional boards, Snow said.
“We’ve all been around 10, 12 years,” she said. “There’ve been liabilities established, contracts entered into that need to be addressed, and up until May of this year, while we were expecting changes, there was no indication or no feeling that what has happened would have happened.”
Legal liabilities for the non-profit boards include things as simple as a photocopier lease, she said. Some of those contracts were agreed to following recent performance reviews with both levels of government that suggested funders were pleased with boards’ work and results, she added.
“To get out of a photocopier contract is like thirteen grand,” she said. “That’s not something, when you do your budget, you budget to buy out a $13,000 photocopier, because it’s not something that you would have anticipated.”
The board also presented its progress report and provided an audited financial report at the meeting, at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s.