Kings County, like many communities in rural Nova Scotia, is facing a number of challenges.
Our population is aging, our economy remains tightly tied to the land and agriculture doesn’t seem to have the same measure of support it once did. It’s becoming harder and harder to compete with the lure of a bigger pay cheques in Halifax or out west to retain our population.
Yes, Kings County is doing much better than many of our neighbours in other rural areas. This week’s $73 million expansion to the Michelin plant in Waterville promises up to 50 new jobs, which is great news for the area. We’re also within that magic hour’s drive of Halifax, making it possible for people to continue to live in this area and commute to the city for work.
There’s still a lot of room for improvement, however. We need to stay on our toes, because - let’s face it - we never know when the tides may change.
“Redefining rural” is the topic of a conference planned for next October. Hosted in Georgetown, PEI, the Georgetown Conference is being put on by Newspapers Atlantic – of which the Kings County Advertiser and Register are members – to begin looking at ways to face up to the challenges of rural life.
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Georgetown could be the face of rural, Atlantic Canadian communities. A spot where generations have made a living on the land and water, there are now fewer than 700 residents. The sawmill is closed and the shipyard is idle.
The purpose of the conference is not to sit around and say, “woe is me.” Instead, the event aims to acknowledge the challenges while looking for solutions. The Georgetown Conference’s goal is to share success stories, look at new ideas and challenge the status quo. It will look at what is working elsewhere and how those ideas could Atlantic Canada.
The conference is being run without government support and organizers hope stakeholders who are ordinary citizens – business leaders, community leaders, artists and ordinary Joes - who want to help revitalize rural communities, will attend.
Over the next nine months, the Kings County Advertiser and Register will be running a series of stories, Champions and Challenges, that look at both sides of the coin: the people who are working to enact change in this area and the challenges we’re facing.
The series is not intended to be negative or to attack the local government. Instead, it’s goal is to open dialogue on particular issues - from downtowns to transportation to education and beyond.
We also want to highlight the good work being done here by our “champions” - people working towards change and striving to revitalize our region. We want to talk to area residents about the difficulties they see in their communities.
Reader input into this project and the themes of the Georgetown Conference are welcome and encouraged. Suggestions of topics, champions, feedback and ideas are all invited.