BY JENNIFER HOEGG
Kings County Advertiser/Register
There were concerns about budget numbers at the Kings Regional Development Authority annual meeting June 17.
Government, business and community members met at the Muir Murray Estate Winery in Lower Wolfville.
Actual expenses were more than $350,000 over budget, but actual income was also over budget, thanks to almost $400,000 more in grants and sponsorships. When one member questioned travel numbers - budgeted at $8,000, but with $20,017 spent - director Stephen Kerr admitted, “the budgeting process we used has not been a good one…. Variances are large and historic.”
Kerr promised a “revamped budgeting process” with expenses detailed by function so members and funding partners can have a “better sense of true cost,” as well as return on investment.
Core funding from the agency comes from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development, Nova Scotia Department of Community Services and the municipalities of Kings County, Berwick, Kentville and Wolfville.
Three new board members were approved at the meeting: Cathy Reid, Marg Goldie and Natasha Gautier.
A busy year
Presenting the annual report, Kerr, who took on his role in May, “takes no credit” for the Kings RDA’s achievements in 2009/ 2010, but praised the efforts of his predecessor, Erin Beaudin and interim director Marianne Gates.
He said the RDA’s eight employees are “that good.”
Kerr gave four measures of a successful year: collaborative support from government funding agencies, good collaborative partnerships, exceeding standard of performance and passing an ISO audit.
He praised the agency’s strategic planning services for Wolfville, Kings Par-transit and the Blue Beach Museum, among others.
Kings RDA’s award-winning vineyard and winery website and immigrant settlement programs were also recognized. The RDA is also involved in Nomination Grand Pre, Planters 2010 and planning expansion of the Kings County Industrial Park, a project Kerr called “boring, but critical.”
The organization’s rebranding from the Kings Community Economic Development Agency to the Kings RDA includes a new logo reflecting the county’s agricultural history, the Bay of Fundy and Cape Blomidon. Kerr said the new brand is “only the beginning,” and he hopes to brand the entire Valley as part of his mission for “genuine progress for all who call Kings County home.”
Hugh Simpson, the outgoing chairman of the board, recalled taking the position in 2005 when Kings CED was “in a period of transition” and “at risk.” He said the agency transformed into a more strategic, credible and inclusive body. Thanking staff and board members, he wished incoming chairman Fred Whalen well as the agency and county “move forward.”
“Move beyond fear and greed”
In a philosophical address, Kerr advised the audience to “think instead of react.”
Praising Nova Scotia, and the Valley in particular, for its environmental assets, Kerr said Kings can benefit from trends of globalization and relocalization.
“Globalization leaves us as individuals virtually powerless,” so they look to politicians and leaders to make sense of it. Kerr said this offers the RDA “the opportunity to define progress.”
“Development versus wilderness, housing versus agriculture – we’re the people who determine how that battle ends.” - Stephen Kerr
Kings RDA is home to “evolutionary and revolutionary ideas” and a “spirit that recognizes a broad sense of progress.” Progress must include environmental sensibility and industry that pays a living wage, and he urged political cooperation and creative leadership to move “beyond fear and greed and look at opportunities we have.
“I came from a place that, like Kings County, is a battleground of different ideas of prosperity,” Kerr said of his native Vermont. “Development versus wilderness, housing versus agriculture – we’re the people who determine how that battle ends.”
Kings’ six “economic zones” present many opportunities, Kerr said: Eastern Kings as the “cultural Mecca,” New Minas as the economic centre, Kentville as the government and professional centre, Berwick’s “transitional” economy and Kingston/ Greenwood’s military-centred economy. The Fundy Shore is another potential economic zone, he added, although “underdeveloped.”
“If we work together, we can integrate into an overall strategy that is more powerful.
“Economic flows don’t care a bit about political boundaries.”