Grand Falls-Windsor -
After AbitibiBowater delivered its devastating intentions to close the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor the provincial government reacted by striking two task forces.
One was a ministerial task force chaired by Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Shawn Skinner, the other was a community development committee with members from area municipalities chaired by ex-college administrator Cyril Farrell.
The dealings of the task forces have been quiet, but that doesn't mean they're not working to advance economic growth in the affected communities, according to the minister, who was in Grand Falls-Windsor Thursday night to address the Exploits Valley Economic Development Committee at its annual general meeting.
"My reference to the work 'quiet' was that they do 'quiet work,'" said the minister in relation to the community development committee.
"Not 'quiet' in the sense that there wasn't anything happening, but that it was quiet work that they did, and the public face of it would be myself."
Skinner said the committee discusses issues relevant to the region; it act as a filter, takes calls from people in the region who want to try new things and provides information.
From time to time, the minister meets with its members and they advance projects they feel would be good for the region.
He then moves those projects forward on the committee's behalf by taking to cabinet and the other members of the ministerial task force.
"They do quiet work because people may not know how much involvement they have," Skinner said. "They do a lot of preparatory work, a lot of work in the various communities, important work."
But while the community development committee might be labouring quietly behind the scenes, the minister also wanted to make another point - nothing happens overnight.
It took AbitibiBowater and its predecessors more than 100 years to get where it was before the mill shut down, employing nearly 800 at its peak.
"It would be unrealistic to expect to have an employer tomorrow that would start off with 800 people," said the minister.
"You're not going to replace a company like AbitibiBowater and the 800-plus jobs and the millions of dollars brought to the central region in a matter of months. It's going to take years, hopefully in two or three years, not 10 or 15. I think it will be done in the short term rather than the long term.
We need to understand and accept that."
Skinner said business opportunities will "start small" and grow in chunks. One of those opportunities is the new cranberry industry.
He said the province will have to get it established first and if it gets up to a point where it would make sense to have secondary processing, that would be considered.