‘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.