Local businessman critical of city business environment

Josh Pennell
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‘They automatically think you’re doing something wrong,’ Peter Woodward says

Newfoundland and Labrador may be well known for the good nature of its locals, but perhaps not so much in the business world. At least not in the larger centers.

Peter Woodward, of the Woodward Group of Cos., speaks on the city business vibe at the NL Employers’ Council conference in St. John’s Wednesday. Thursday, he told the conference that urban centres should be more business friendly.
—File photo by Josh Pennell/The Telegram

“In the major centres, very frankly, I find the cities to be very confrontational when you want to do something. They automatically think you’re doing something wrong. That you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes.”

Those comments were made by Peter Woodward of the Woodward Group of Cos., this week during a panel discussion at the NL Employers’ Council conference.

“This province, when it comes to being competitive on a world scale, needs to be positive and put more positive influence out there and say, ‘you’re welcome,’” Woodward said. He said that the real positive story was happening in the rural areas of the province.

Woodward wasn’t speaking about rivalry in business. He made it very clear he was speaking about the environment in which people like himself do business. That environment, by his account, is much more inviting in the rural areas.

He gave one example of some of his vessels in port at St. John’s asking for a water source. He realized he was going to have to pay for it, and said he was warned not to steal it from the fire hydrants — as though the city officials were automatically suspicious of him. He compared it to being in port in Lewisporte, where a water line was put in for him the next day.

“I have no regrets about moving our ships out of St. John’s. We found this place to be very adversarial. And very confrontational,” Woodward said.

The St. John’s Port Authority was contacted about the statement but said it couldn’t comment on a specific incident unless it knew the exact circumstances under which it happened and could confirm with the people working that day.

Woodward said he wasn’t speaking only of the vibe he got while his vessels were in

St. John’s harbour, but of the business vibe in general — and not just in St. John’s but in other larger centres in the province, too. He said being adversarial is no way to do business worldwide any more than it is locally.

Denis Mahoney, chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade, agreed when contacted later by The Telegram that positivity is what’s needed.

“I think Mr. Woodward is absolutely right that we need to continue to promote a business-friendly environment in this province,” said Mahoney.

He added a positive momentum is essential for the business community to continue to grow and have a good name.Mahnoney said that building those types of relationships with government can take time.

“It takes time to get governments to understand some of the challenges that businesses face,” he said. “I won’t say that businesses are not sometimes frustrated, but more importantly when there is frustration there is an opportunity to get change and our experience in that has been positive.”

He added the Board of Trade has not experienced difficulties at the provincial or municipal level.

Organizations: Board of Trade, Port Authority

Geographic location: Lewisporte

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Recent comments

  • P F Murphy
    November 15, 2013 - 13:44

    The Board of Trade and its members have a well-earned reputation and their blatant blaring of their entitlement to their entitlements is pretty sickening. At least half of them don't seem to be able to read and have to have everything explained to them once they bring in their proposals full of mistakes. This, to them, seems to be unfavourable and not just their own stupidity. You only have to see every hotel proposal in St. John's over the height allowances and destroying everyone else's property values to comprehend that they are a very thick lot. And then they wonder why everyone looks for their mistakes and misinterpretations every time they show their faces. Poor them. Not every group in the province is going to kow-tow to their every whim like the St. John's City Council. They should stop whining and grow a pair.

    • BC
      November 18, 2013 - 07:21

      It's quite clear, good sir, that you are very foolish, and are one of the people rightfully criticized in this article. Being adversarial to business is a recipe for disaster, its a shame for the rest of us that we must deal with uninformed people like you exist.

  • Edmund
    November 15, 2013 - 11:22

    It is about time a well know business person has challenged the attitude and running of our city. I simply have to ask myself one question - Who would I trust to manage the growth of our city especially now when we have achieved such a positive world class awareness of a thriving business province (and it was not O'Keefe and his band of buffoons and bum boys and girls who did this) and promote the potential for business development. O'Keefe and his nut bars won't even listen to the opinions and direction of the professional staff that they have when recommendations are made about well informed and documented decisions that are best for the city as a business and it's residents. School teachers are not the kind of proven and experienced business professionals that we need to grow. It would be interesting if someone like Peter Woodward or Ron Ellsworth would run for mayor next time around. We have had enough of O'Keefe and his short sightedness, including wasted cruise ship promotions (we have never seen any profit or loss info on this activity) and deserve better.

    • Chantal
      November 15, 2013 - 14:18

      Perhaps you would like to see Council rented out to the highest bidder. The City could be run by business for business.

    • david
      November 16, 2013 - 10:25

      That's a pretty serious allegation there, Chantal...that council has to-date been controlled for a price that is LESS than the highest bid. What is this....the NDP?

  • david
    November 15, 2013 - 10:55

    The very first sentence of this article belies a sad truth...the "reputation" of Newfoundlanders being SSSOO friendly is a load of BS. The reason you think it ironic that business people aren't "playing along" with that image is because business people live in real world where BSing oneself doesn't get you very far. Government can and does BS everyone all day long, every day of their lives....and it seems to work miracles here, as evidenced by the continuation of this "Disneyworld" attitude about who we are. Business doesn't have such a luxury. Here at home, it deals with illegal strikers, not that supremely mythical story of "the wonderful Newfoundland labourer". It deals with shoplifters, not "generous souls". And worst of all, it deals with successive governments that cannot fathom the problems it causes when it arbitrarily changes the rules, or subsidizes a direct competitor with public money because they're a "friend of the party". The festering disease of government interference is largely why this place is a hopeless, permanent economic backwater. Ask yourself this: If it weren't for oil ---- which no one here can take any credit for, BTW ----- what would the Avalon look like today? Answer: like the rest of the island. Yes, that bad.

  • Observer
    November 15, 2013 - 09:17

    "They automatically think you're doing something wrong. That you're trying to pull the wool over their eyes." Man oh man! Truer words were never said! Muskrat Falls come to mind anyone????When are we ever going to get over this meanspirited culture of mistrust? Never, by the looks of it.