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Newspapers Atlantic announces conference aimed at revitalizing Maritime communities - Oct. 16, 2012



For some the line score on rural Atlantic Canada is already written. Our communities are too old and reliant on failing traditional industries. Our youth are leaving for bigger paycheques in bigger centres. We are too dependent on government.
It is these generalizations that are driving organizers of a unique conference to be held Oct. 3-5, 2013. “The Georgetown Conference, Rural Redefined” will focus on rural issues and opportunities in an environment free of government influence. But Georgetown is not about criticizing government or failed programs. It is about identifying the issues, promoting solutions and engaging the people who can make change happen on a local level in communities throughout Atlantic Canada.
“We believe in our rural communities and rural people and we believe communities can be reinvigorated. Our best days lie ahead of us,” says Inez Forbes, President of Newspapers Atlantic, lead sponsor of The Georgetown Conference. “It will take hard work, but we will get there.”
The conference namesake is the capital of Kings County, PEI, an idyllic community with a population of 675. Its story is not unique. The sawmill is closed. The shipyard sits idle. It is increasingly difficult to maintain municipal services. Yet the community has a spirit that defies its economic reality.
The Georgetown Conference is about harnessing the spirit that exists in every rural community and arming those local leaders - some who are elected but many who are not - with ideas that they can transfer to their own communities. It is about asking a simple but powerful question: What does our community need to thrive?
Newspapers Atlantic is spearheading the conference because its members collectively are the voice of rural Atlantic Canada. Newspapers Atlantic represents 70 community newspapers with a combined weekly circulation of more than 700,000. Her members are found in communities such as Port aux Basques, NFLD; Yarmouth, NS; Port Hawkesbury, NS., Miramichi, and Alberton, PEI.
Four preeminent Atlantic Canadians have agreed to act as conference co-chairs: Wade MacLauchlan, West Covehead of PEI, President Emeritus of the University of Prince Edward; John Bragg of Collingwood, N.S., founder of Oxford Fine Foods, the largest blueberry producer in the world; Gilles LePage of Caraquet, past CEO
Mouvement des Caisses Populaires Acadiennes; and Donna Butt, Trinity, NFLD, founder of Rising Tide Theatre.
“The success of this Conference begins with bringing together people and ideas from throughout the Atlantic region, in a lively and sustained dialogue, thanks to the initiative of Newspapers Atlantic” said conference co-chair Wade MacLauchlan.
“Long-term success will come with a redefined outlook for vital rural communities, based on a strong sense of place and a commitment to confront our challenges and embrace opportunities.”
An interactive website thegeorgetownconference.ca has launched. It will feature updates on our agenda and promote businesses and ideas that are flourishing in our communities.
Over the the coming months members of Newspapers Atlantic will undertake various initiatives aimed at identifying local ideas and solutions that can be brought forward to The Georgetown Conference.
Starting in the new year, the Courier will be leading a series of “town hall” meetings, to gather ideas in advance of the Georgetown Conference, ideas that may help revitalize the county we call home.
We want to hear your ideas for reinventing rural Atlantic Canada. It’s easy to get involved. Contact Courier/Courier Weekend editor Vern Faulkner (email editor@stcroixcourier.ca, phone 466-3220, ext. 1307) with your suggestions and join the discussion online or follow us on Facebook: (facebook.com/GeorgetownConference) or Twitter: (twitter.com/georgetown2013.)
This newspaper will also tell stories of ideas explored elsewhere, to see if they may resonate with our community.
“It’s important to realize that we are looking to find innovative solutions to local challenges,” says Vern Faulkner, editor of the Saint Croix Courier and Courier Weekend.
While on vacation in Newfoundland this summer, Faulkner witnessed a small fishing community that, like many, had been hit hard due to changes in the fishing industry. Yet it had transformed itself as a destination for tourists who wished to experience, first-hand, the life of a fisherman. The venture was bringing valuable tourist dollars into what would otherwise have been yet another dying town off the beaten path.
“Might that kind of idea work for Grand Manan, or Blacks Harbour?” Faulkner asks. “It’s worth investigating, discussing.”
He noted the recent success of initiatives in Saint Andrews to bring cruise ships to the area – initiatives that also had benefits for Eastport, Me., and Campobello.
“These are the kinds of ideas that will help our county, our community.”
“I’m so proud Newspapers Atlantic is taking the lead,” says Leith Orr, publisher of the Courier/Courier Weekend. “No other organization is better suited to champion the cause of reinvigorating rural communities. Our region has never seen anything on this scale before. The Georgetown Conference will be a dynamic, must-attend event for anyone dedicated to rural communities.”