As the Population Growth Co-ordinator for NOW Lunenburg County, I typically receive one of three responses when I meet people - they either say, “You are everywhere, presenting to groups, touring doctors around, promoting the area and helping new residents land here softly.” Or they say, “Yeah, I heard of you. What exactly do you do again?” And the final of the three possible responses is, “I’ve never heard of NOW Lunenburg County.”
Over the next eight weeks I hope you'll join me as I explain what NOW Lunenburg County is, what we do, why we do it, and how you can help. Once you learn what we’re doing, you just may want to roll up your sleeves and join in, because what we do involves you.
'Nova Scotia is staring into an abyss that will lead to extended decline if it's not reversed'. That quote from The Ivany Report - The Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, released in 2014 on the state of our province urged us, you and I, to act if we want to sustain our way of life especially in rural Nova Scotia. NOW Lunenburg County is a group of business people and concerned citizens who got together five years ago to figure out what we can do.
No matter what you think of the Ivany Report citizens all over the province started community-led initiatives such as NOW Lunenburg County, each tackling their local issues and making progress at different rates, which says to me the report got something right - it got us engaged.
NOW Lunenburg County knew we needed to do things differently; the old way of relying on government to solve community problems has not been working very well in rural Nova Scotia. We needed to understand what was happening and what ideas people had for addressing our challenges. We hosted community engagement events, talked to employers and newcomers. What we heard was confusing. People said there were no jobs here. Employers told us that they needed staff. Residents asked why on earth people would ever move here, yet, families who were new to the area quickly told us why they fell in love with this place, and how much possibility they see. Folks would lament on social media that there was nothing to do here, while others responded that they have never lived in a community with more to do. “You’ll pay a lot more in taxes,” is the cautionary comment some Nova Scotians wrote, while others responded with, “I’ll happily pay your taxes because I feel safe here.” You’d have sworn they were talking about two different places. Why the disconnect? And how could we help connect the two?
We concluded, and our demographics support this conclusion, that our future prosperity depends on growing our population. More people living in Lunenburg County stimulates the economy, creates a larger talent pool for employers to draw from, increases our school population and creates greater opportunities for businesses to grow and thrive.
In 2017 NOW Lunenburg County embarked on a cross-Canada tour inviting people to move to Lunenburg County. A big, bold idea that no one had done before! Two years later we are still following up with people who learned about this county through the tour.
We continue to act on what we learned while on our cross-Canada Tour, during our recent European tour with Immigration Nova Scotia, from talking to employers, newcomers and residents alike.
This will take more than NOW Lunenburg County. It will take more than our governments. It will take all of us, working together.
We hope you'll tune in weekly to hear more of our learning, insights, and ideas and we welcome you to share some of your own.
Tina Hennigar is the population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County.