The Cape Breton Post
It's all about community, says founder
SYDNEY MINES — New Deal Development celebrated it's 25th anniversary with a banquet at the Canton in North Sydney, Dec. 13.
Incorporated in 1983 and organized by the Greg MacLeod of the Tompkins Institute of Cape Breton University, New Deal was intended to help create jobs and economic development on the Northside.
New Deal has been involved in a wide range of developments over the years, including job training as well as affordable housing. Its largest projects were the Golden Pond Housing Co-operative in the Sydney Mines-Little Pond area.
In 2008, under the leadership of chairman Emmett O'Connor, New Deal completed a 20-unit apartment building in Sydney Mines.
In his remarks, guest speaker Greg MacLeod, director of the Tompkins Institute, said the economy of the world is in crisis.
"This is not shocking for people in Cape Breton," he said. "Our economy has been in crisis for a long time. The key symptom of our economic problem is that our population is dropping every year."
Referring to the industrial boom around 1900, MacLeod said since then the economy has not favoured the island.
"Because of this, a group associated with the Tompkins Institute has been attempting to come up with new approaches suited to community survival in the future by designing new ways of doing business."
In the 1970's, the institute began first with the Cape Breton School of Crafts and then New Dawn Enterprises. Today, New Dawn has 150 employees and controls assets of over $15 million. This was followed in the 1980s with New Deal, Cape Breton Labourers' Development Corporation and BCA Group.
The BCA Group has led by investing in such business projects as Sydney Mines renewal, East Coast Rope, Bras d'Or Lakes Inn in St. Peters, Sydport, which now has a contract worth $30 million to build oil drilling equipment, and many other local businesses. Two years ago, BCA took over the abandoned Clearwater Fish Plant in North Sydney and in 2008 sold it to Louisbourg Fisheries.
"We certainly do need outside investment and outside businesses to set up in Cape Breton. But the aim should be that the majority of business ownership will be local. If local people do not have significant control over local business, then we do not control our community."
MacLeod refers to groups like New Deal and BCA as the "community business sector."
"The university and community colleges are essential in building up a new kind of community business sector. The economy is much more complicated than ever before and any successful business must be constantly changing with new technology and new business approaches."
In congratulating New Deal on its accomplishments, MacLeod noted that Halifax or Toronto aren't going to build up the Northside.
"If local residents do not take control, our communities will dwindle and die," he said. "My wish is that more people will join New Deal in bringing new life to the Northside. Also, we have to tell people that it is fun. In these community businesses, you meet new people, make friends and get great satisfaction out of seeing the results."
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