Peter Woodward doesn't have to imagine what improved infrastructure can do for Labrador.
Better roads means faster development and reduced costs, the vice-president of operations for the Woodward Group of Cos. told the audience during a panel discussion at Northern Exposure, a Labrador business conference and trade show, Wednesday at the Delta Hotel in St. John's. Residents benefit, he said.
"When I grew up, we flew milk in on 737s. We flew all the fresh fruit in," he said. "It cost a fortune. You were lucky to find a good apple. You were lucky to find a good orange. All of that has changed dramatically."
Woodward credited investment over the years from the provincial government.
"Now it's time, in my opinion, for the province to start looking at yields coming back, and there's lots of challenges when it comes to those yields. Because the best connection we have right now is the other way. It's west to Quebec and Ontario, and it's west to major supply points like Montreal, Toronto."
Companies and suppliers in Newfoundland shouldn't take business in Labrador for granted, he said, noting a recent purchase of tractors his company made in St. John's.
"It gnawed on me that I have a couple-thousand-dollar bill to move them from St. John's to Goose Bay," he said.
"And I guess my message in that is that if you're going to overcome the competition - and there's going to be lots of it - if people on the island don't do something with respect to looking at how they can get involved in these projects, others will. If you expect that you're going to ship it to a warehouse in St. John's, and somebody's going to buy it off of you in Muskrat or Churchill Falls or Labrador City or Nain, it ain't going to happen. You're not going to happen."
The good news, said Woodward, is that companies will set up shop in Labrador will find a lot of opportunity. "We're underserviced in just about everything. I'm not afraid of competition," he said. "We do want more people to live in Labrador. We want to build communities there. It's a great place to live. There are lots of great things to do. It's a great place to raise a family."