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JANIS BYRNE: Things are looking up for business in St. John's and across the province

A view of St. John's from Signal Hill.
A view of St. John's from Signal Hill. - SaltWire Network

The weather in St. John’s has finally improved, giving us all a bounce in our step and a renewed spirit of optimism.  Things are looking up for business, too. In the spirit of summer, let’s do a quick check in on some of the positive things happening around metro and the province.

St. John’s Business attraction

The City of St. John’s is hiring a Marketing Strategist to promote the City of St. John’s as a destination of choice where people want to live, work and play with a focus on new businesses and business expansion with an emphasis in areas of ocean excellence, expertise and economy being the value proposition.

Water street re-opens

The Downtown dig is completed for this year, the street looks great, and there is a renewed energy and drive downtown. The new sidewalks provide opportunities for restaurants and retailers alike to expand their operations outside, which creates the “downtown vibe” and is an added bonus when nice weather hits.

Average weekly earnings

Average weekly earnings continue their 10-year upward trend. Salaried workers now receive on average $1,315 per week, and hourly workers are up to $785 weekly.

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate for the province continues to decline, now standing at 11.8 per cent.  In the St. John’s CMA, the unemployment rate is at 7.9 per cent.  The national average stands at 5.2 per cent.

Immigration

The province reports that it is set to smash its target of 1,700 newcomers by 2020. The province is also opening up new categories and putting supportive resources around immigrant entrepreneurship. Welcome news, as the need is becoming more and more acute, however it is imperative that as the number of applications increase, additional resources are added to decrease processing time. Longer processing times mean that skilled immigrants may go elsewhere.

Sales

Retail sales and new motor vehicle sales remain stable compared to last year. New developments in Churchill Square will reinvigorate that area. Investment in downtown, like the revitalization of the old Fortis building, will help revive the downtown core. Galway and Kenmount Terrace continue to thrive.

Start-up community   

The eco-system for new entrepreneurs continues to improve. The Genesis Centre at Memorial University is bursting at the seams with new innovative businesses. The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship continues with a myriad of programing to help businesses start.

Industry and Tourism

In our offshore, exploration activity abounds, and offshore production was up 4.9 per cent in May.  Export of manufactured goods is also up.

Plans are well underway to double the size of our aquaculture industry, and to grow our IT and tourism sectors.  With the icebergs and whales, this season has been a banner year to showcase the province, including a visit from an Australian television crew.

On a personal note, I recently had the opportunity to visit Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador. Of all my travels, this is one of the most unique, memorable and beautiful trips I’ve ever experienced. On May 22, 2019 Air Borealis (operated by PAL Airlines) and the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies announced that they will be base camp operators for the Torngat Mountains National Park until at least 2023. Air Borealis was formed through a historic agreement between the Inuit and Innu of Labrador, together with PAL airlines. This trip also gave us an opportunity to learn more about the Inuit people and culture. I look forward to further travels to the beautiful big land.

Business Solutions

At the St. John’s Board of Trade, we are committed to helping business grow and have reinvigorated our programs and services to help small business. Our Grow with Google events help small businesses establish on Google maps and enhance their online presence. Our Connector program, a truly hidden gem, is helping dozens of employers find the right talent. Our Business Solutions director is helping businesses solve their pain points every day.

Business is the heart of the economy and the St. John’s Board of Trade is delighted to support business. Is everything perfect?

No. However, there are many good things happening on which we can build, not the least of which is the resilience and tenacity of our people.

Janis Byrne is chair of the St. John’s Board of Trade. She writes from St. John’s


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