The Municipality of Shelburne, Nova Scotia
Embracing the coastal connection
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of the Municipality of Shelburne, Nova Scotia for our focus on Economic Development in Canada
The Municipality of the District of Shelburne is a rural area of southwestern Nova Scotia that’s home to over 4,000 people. A scenic coastal region, the Municipality benefits from powder white sand beaches and ocean, coupled with the natural beauty of lakes, rivers, and forests. This makes it a popular destination for tourists looking to embrace the great outdoors and residents seeking a great quality of life.
Ideally located for business, Shelburne has transport links by air at the Halifax International Airport, by sea with its Digby St John Ferry and Yarmouth Ferry services, and convenient access to Highway 103. The fishing industry is the economic backbone for the area, contributing an estimated $231,000 million annually to the local economy. The area is well known for its high quality and very tasty ground fish and shellfish, particularly lobster, which is shipped around the world. Tourism, forestry, aquaculture, manufacturing and ship building are also strong economic drivers.
For outdoor recreation, such as biking, hiking, and ATV activities, the Municipality funds and maintains local trails that connect with other trail systems. And there are places to shop and pick up fresh, local produce and crafts at farmer’s markets in the Towns of Lockeport, Shelburne, and the local area. Other recreational and cultural amenities include a golf course, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, Osprey Arts Centre, arena, curling club, parks, campgrounds, to name a few. The ocean, lakes and rivers also provide for some great water activities such as sailing, surfing, kayaking, and canoeing.
Accessibility is a key priority, and Council and staff are embarking on developing an accessibility plan and renovations have begun at Welkum Park, located in Welshtown, to make the park completely accessible for all to enjoy. Council acknowledges that they’d like to see more accessibility across the region to ensure that everyone may be able to participate in the many programs.
A safe, diverse, and inclusive community, steeped in a rich cultural heritage, the Municipality of Shelburne has seen a growth in population over recent years, particularly in the last 12 months as people look to move away from heavily populated regions due to the impact of COVID-19. Penny Smith, Warden of the Municipality of Shelburne shared “In the past 12 months, we’ve seen an increase in property sales and lots of new people coming into the community. We’ve also seen a spike in construction and renovations. Our building inspector has advised that there’s been a 53 percent increase in the number of new dwellings from April 2019 to March 2020.”
Shelburne saw a 13 percent increase in property sales from 2020 to 2021, with some months doubling sales in comparison to previous months. There are a number of residential and commercial initiatives taking place in the region and more land that’s available for development.
A real game changer for the area has been the significant investment in its broadband connection through a partnership with Bell Canada and Develop Nova Scotia and the high-speed ‘Fibre to the Home’ project. The multi-million-dollar initiative connects homes and businesses across Canada – particularly in rural or remote areas, like the Municipality of Shelburne – to high-speed internet; allowing people to live, work, and connect online more easily.
Smith acknowledges, “People are looking to move to a safe community, where they can work from home, run a business from home, help their children to learn online, and stay connected with family living in other areas. This project will see almost 100% of our residents and businesses able to utilize the best high-speed fibre internet available in Canada in their home. Council is really proud of that.” Currently, 95% of residents and business have access, making the Municipality of Shelburne one of the first rural municipalities to do so in Nova Scotia. With the pandemic, the timing could not have been better.
Deputy Warden of the Municipality of Shelburne, Dale Richardson adds, “I truly believe that the pandemic is responsible for these population increases, particularly in Southwestern Nova Scotia. People are reassessing their lives and recognizing that they can work from home. So, they’re looking for more rural communities, such as the Municipality of Shelburne, to improve their quality of life. I think that the infrastructure that’s been improved, like the Bell Canada project to add high-speed internet access into the area, and the improvements that Council will continue to make in future, have been important. We are seen as a safe community, both in terms of crime and with the impact of the pandemic.”
Another reason to relocate or establish a business in the Municipality of Shelburne is that it has one of the lowest commercial tax rates in the province. This, along with the improved infrastructure and internet connectivity, makes it an ideal location to do business. For Smith and her fellow Council members, it isn’t just about attracting new businesses into the region, it’s also about taking care of existing ones and recognizing the contribution that they make to the local community. She states, “We’ll be reaching out to our existing businesses to see how we can assist them. It’s wonderful when we have new businesses come to the area, but we certainly can’t forget our existing businesses and the economic and social impact that they have in our community.”
For businesses that may be considering a move into the area, Shelburne has an industrial park that the Municipality is developing a plan for and will soon be in the position to consider potential business opportunities. The park is close to international shipping routes and also within reach of the most important Eastern seaboard ports in the U.S. Showcasing the entrepreneurial spirit and business opportunities is the establishment of a winery. The climate data study and high-speed internet convinced the owner, whose family has roots in the area, to establish a winery, a first for Eastern Shelburne County. Currently, the owner is looking to expand the business by including wine tours and other events and anxiously awaits harvesting the first crop of grapes and turning them into fine wines.
On a broader scale, projects are also being reviewed from a more regional planning perspective, to align policies and bylaws, along with sharing common goals. This will mean less red tape for developers and businesses, as the messaging is consistent across neighboring municipalities that the area is open for business. The Municipality of Shelburne also has shared services agreements with the nearby Towns of Shelburne and Lockeport. Expanding on this, Smith says, “Council understands the need for a collaborative approach and partnerships – this will lead to success.”
An example of this successful collaboration is in the work with the Shelburne Port Authority at the Shelburne Marine Terminal. Considered to be one of the best natural harbours in the world, the port in Shelburne has a channel that is 800 metres wide and a minimum depth of nine meters through its narrows. This facility has and continues to provide a home berth for many fishing vessels, provide space for the Canadian Coast Guard, and attracts tourists and cruise ships to the area. As part of its commitment to the future of this asset, the Municipality has invested funds into upgrades to the Shelburne Marine Terminal, which has been a significant economic driver in the past and is hoped will continue to act as such. The region and the province wants to secure its sustainability for the future as a significant piece of infrastructure that provides facilities required for the fishing and tourism industries.
Warden Smith, Deputy Warden Richardson and the entire Council are optimistic about the future! They will continue to bring the area’s health care needs to the Province to improve services and play their role by being a welcoming and attractive community to health care professionals; to invest in economic development; partner with the Nova Scotia Community College, showcasing the area as a place known for marine innovation and research with the goal of a Marine Innovation Centre being internationally recognized; and strive to maintain pristine natural environments while supporting resource-based industries, such as the fishing industry, which is the economic backbone for the area.
The Municipality’s Coat of Arms “From Ocean to Forest” is a testament of what this rural Nova Scotia community is all about and the opportunities it has to offer residents, businesses, and those thinking about moving to a rural municipality. As a region, Council is also looking forward to continued growth in population, as new people are attracted to the area for a variety of reasons. Deputy Warden Richardson praised the kindness, openness, and friendliness of the community that makes it a welcoming place for new arrivals.
A true gem of Nova Scotia, the Municipality of Shelburne is increasing in population, opportunities, infrastructure, and investment. This maritime treasure has a bright future ahead.
AT A GLANCE
The Municipality of Shelburne, Nova Scotia
What: A welcoming community of opportunity; population 4,000 and growing
Where: Southwestern region of Nova Scotia