When the Cape Breton Partnership first opened its doors in 2004, it had an ambitious goal of attracting 100 private sector-led Investors in its first year. Since then, the organization has evolved as a crucial component of the economic development landscape of Unama’ki – Cape Breton. Now celebrating its 20th year, the Cape Breton Partnership is taking a look back at the last two decades and sharing how it all began, and what have been the milestones along the way.

The beginnings of the Cape Breton Partnership can be traced back to the overarching goal of improving the economic outlook for the Island, bridging gaps in economic development, and uniting the business community through private sector involvement.

Keith MacDonald, who was one of the first three employees of the organization, and who was first hired as General Manager before becoming President & CEO of the organization from 2007 to 2018, shares how the Partnership was formed, and how it has grown to the economic development catalyst its known as today.

Former President & CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, Keith MacDonald, addresses the room at the 2016 Investor Summit at the Keltic Lodge at the Highlands in Victoria County.

“At that time, there was a great deal of conversation about the private sector taking more of a leadership role in economic development. At the time, there were quite a few provincial and federal economic development groups, but all had limited to no private sector involvement,” explains MacDonald, who now serves as CAO of the Municipality of the County of Inverness. “Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (ECBC) was looking at some models, and the Halifax Partnership model was something that rose to the top being a private sector-led organization, and really moving things forward in the Halifax region at the time.”

MacDonald explains that there was a strong consensus that this model could work here, so various private sector leaders were asked to participate to come together to form a board, which included a strong cross-section of businesses from communities across the Island.

Another important ingredient that makes up the historical mosaic of the organization is a piece of work that was instrumental in setting a collaborative plan to economic development: the Prosperity Framework. The framework served as a strategic roadmap designed to guide the region towards sustainable economic development and growth. The framework outlined key priorities and initiatives aimed at fostering economic development, enhancing quality of life, and building a resilient and prosperous future for Unama’ki – Cape Breton.

Former President & CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, Carla Arsenault, moderates a panel of career experts at the 2018 Business Youth Symposium at the Civic Centre in Port Hawkesbury

Fast forward to today, and the spiritual successor of this work can be found in Forward. Together. : Unama’ki – Cape Breton’s Economic Development & Population Growth Plan, wrapped up in October 2023 and being launched throughout 2024, available at www.CapeBretonPartnership.com/ForwardTogether.

“The pandemic really changed the business landscape, not just here in Unama’ki – Cape Breton, but for the whole world. Not only did we not close the doors to business support, we doubled down in our efforts to make sure that the business community had the resources they needed at their fingertips,” shares Jeremy Martell, Director of Communications at the Cape Breton Partnership. “For the first time in 50 years, we also saw our population increasing and we needed a plan to help us grow intentionally with the proper resources and supports in this new post-pandemic world, while also helping the Province to achieve its goal of doubling the population by 2060.”

Now in its 20th year, the Cape Breton Partnership’s team is supported by up to 30 staff based across the Island and is proud to collaborate with more than 150 Investors, whose investment supports the growth of our Island. The Cape Breton Partnership also operates two Regional Enterprise Networks – the Cape Breton Regional Enterprise Network (CB REN) and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Regional Enterprise Network (CBRM REN). The REN model is a collaborative and progressive approach to economic development across rural regions throughout the province, and was a pivotal moment for the Partnership with both RENs receiving support from the Provincial of Nova Scotia, First Nation communities, and all five municipalities.

“The creation of the RENs really helped the Partnership focus its attention Island-wide. While we were Island-wide before, and valued that approach, the RENS allowed us to grow our team and have staff living and working in communities across the Island,” said Blayr Billard, Chief Operating Officer of the Cape Breton Partnership who has been with the organization for 15 years through different roles. “At our core, that is our greatest strength for both our Island and our team. Unique individuals and communities working together to accomplish something bigger than any of us on our own. Collaboration and connection is the key.”

In addition to the REN model, the organization also facilitates a number of programs and initiatives that focus on nurturing welcoming communities and providing supports to newcomers and the business community, such as the Cape Breton Connector Program, the Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership, and the Cape Breton Welcome Network, to name a few. Through these programs, initiatives, services, and more, the Cape Breton Partnership has supported the professional and employment development of hundreds of university and college student graduates over the last 20 years, helping to foster leadership and launch careers across the Island and region.

A full list of the Cape Breton Partnership’s current initiatives and services can be viewed at www.CapeBretonPartnership.com/initiatives-services/.

The team of the Cape Breton Partnership gather at the 2023 Investor Summit at the Inverary Resort on Baddeck Bay in Victoria County.

“The journey of the Cape Breton Partnership began with a vision to revitalize the local economy and create opportunities for growth. Through strategic initiatives and partnerships with First Nations communities, all levels of government, businesses, and community organizations, the Cape Breton Partnership has worked tirelessly to achieve its goals, while fostering collaboration, innovation, job creation, and economic diversification,” says Tyler Mattheis, current President & CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership. “As we welcome new and emerging industries and provide sector-specific support to those looking to grow or diversify their business, we are able to make use of the important groundwork our predecessors and colleagues put into place so that we can continue to build a thriving Unama’ki – Cape Breton for generations to come.”

The Cape Breton Partnership is proud to be Unama’ki – Cape Breton’s partner in economic development by providing the expertise, supports and resources the business community needs to succeed, while helping make the Island a great place to live, work, and invest.

This session was recorded on May 6, 2024, and explores the impact of transportation costs on goods and services; how diversifying our transportation systems can help lower these costs, benefitting both local and broader markets; and how better transportation can support manufacturing. By working together, these sectors can create more jobs and sustainable growth in our region.

The session included a Panel Discussion and a Town Hall Discussion. Panel Discussion: “Unama’ki – Cape Breton’s Transportation Systems” Town Hall Discussion: “How does the transportation system affect your business and community?”

The session was co-hosted by the Cape Breton Partnership, Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Scotia Rail Development Society, Cape Breton University, Port of Sydney, and JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.

Thanks to Seaside Communications – @SeasideCommunications for arranging and making available this recording, originally airing on Seaside’s Community Channel.

*Disclaimer: This session occurred on May 6, 2024, and included information that was accurate as of the time of presentation. As circumstances and projects continue, there may be a variety of details and pieces of information that will deviate from the information in this recording.

The Cape Breton Partnership and Net Zero Atlantic co-hosted an Offshore Wind Information Session Series across Unama’ki – Cape Breton in late 2023 and early 2024. This recording is from the Sydney, NS, session held in March 2024.

Attendees heard about the basics of offshore wind energy as part of the Cape Breton Partnership’s Green Energy Engagement Program, and Net Zero Atlantic’s project Capacity Building for the Sustainable and Inclusive Development of Nova Scotia’s Offshore Wind Resources.

Each session included a short presentation and an open house format with a chance to speak with representatives from both the Cape Breton Partnership and Net Zero Atlantic.

Thanks to Seaside Communications@SeasideCommunications for arranging and making available this recording, originally airing on Seaside’s Community Channel.

*Disclaimer: This session occurred on March 5, 2024, and included information that was accurate as of the time of presentation. As circumstances and projects continue, there may be a variety of details and pieces of information that will deviate from the information in this recording.

Unama’ki – Cape Breton, NS – A group representing a variety of Unama’ki – Cape Breton’s leaders in transportation and economic development will be holding a town hall-style discussion on “The Impact of Transportation Costs on Life and Work in Unama’ki – Cape Breton” on May 6 at the Port of Sydney.

This public information session is designed to explore the importance of diversifying transportation systems on Cape Breton Island and will include a panel discussion highlighting the potential economic impacts, including employment opportunities, of an updated and diversified system of commercial shipping options. The session is co-hosted by the Cape Breton Partnership, Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Scotia Rail Development Society, Port of Sydney, and JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Tyler Mattheis, President and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership and will focus on the need and opportunities for expanded and diversified systems for commercial shipping. Some of those opportunities could include expanded export potential, expansion of manufacturing opportunities for existing operators, and the attraction of outside investment to the Island. The panel will feature local experts on investment attraction, export, engineering, bulk shipping, and green energy.

“The CBRM, as the urban hub of Unama’ki – Cape Breton, is recognized as a key economic hub with the potential for a diverse transportation network that includes road, rail, sea, and air infrastructure,” says Tyler Mattheis. “However, without significant updates and expansion of each of these systems, the CBRM is restricted in its ability to fully contribute to a strong and growing Nova Scotia, despite the many opportunities for economic development and growth.”

“We are at a pivotal point in history where CBRM is growing, and we must continue to plan for the future,” says CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall-Merrill. “Innovation in transportation needs to be balanced with affordability and access for all residents.”

The event will also feature a “Town Hall” discussion featuring local businesspeople who will talk about how the diversification of commercial transportation could affect their businesses as well as the lives of the residents of Unama’ki – Cape Breton.

“Our goal for hosting this event is largely public awareness and education, bringing real information and feedback directly to the public and generating discussion around the role that transportation plays in our Island’s success,” adds Megan Penney, Member Relations Coordinator of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The event will take place on May 6, from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, at the Port of Sydney’s Pittman Hall. Many key stakeholders and partners are confirmed to attend the event, including the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Government of Nova Scotia, business leaders focused on developments in and around Sydney Harbour, and private sector businesses from across Unama’ki – Cape Breton.

To attend, please register by visiting TransportationTownHall.eventbrite.ca or contact us at info@cbregionalchamber.ca.


Media Contact:
Jeremy Martell, Director of Communications
Cape Breton Partnership

Canada’s housing crisis is dominating the news, but we rarely hear about the work happening behind the scenes to fix it. There are housing advocates, developers, and politicians right here in Unama’ki – Cape Breton who are making tangible progress towards solutions. 

In the fourth episode of Invest in Cape Breton, we cover the current state of Cape Breton’s housing market, what two developers are doing to address the crisis, and what they think local governments and stakeholders can do to facilitate more housing development.

Our guests are:

This episode is sponsored by the Construction Association of Nova Scotia (CANS) and Doucet Developments.

Listen now, or read on for a few highlights.

Population Growth and Lack of Inventory Are Driving the Local Housing Crisis

Unama’ki-Cape Breton saw a population boom during the pandemic that hasn’t let up. There are many upsides to growth, but the island doesn’t have enough housing to support it yet. As a result, availability is low and prices have gone up.

Roger Boutilier from the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors (NSAR) says the way out of the problem is to build more, especially in the categories of social housing, senior housing, starter homes, and density development (i.e. row houses and apartment buildings). The good news is that Nova Scotia has the most new development in the country. The situation should improve in the next few years as those projects come to market and prices and interest rates stabilize.

New Housing Developments Are Coming Soon

Doucet Developments is deep in the design phase for new residential and commercial development coming to the Sydney waterfront. The first phase of Edgewater is expected to deliver 166 luxury apartment rentals, office space, community amenities, and 400 parking spaces. The company is also hoping to build residential communities behind the Ben’s Bread facility on George Street, and is exploring opportunities on Charlotte Street as well.

By the Bay Properties is new to the region but is already providing housing. They have 40 affordably-priced mini homes on the way and hope to deliver 80 units by the end of 2024. In the near future, they’re focusing on government programs to provide affordable housing (join the waitlist) and getting permits to build multi-unit buildings.

Governments Are Doing a Good Job Addressing the Crisis, but Can Still Do More

All of the guests offered kudos to local, provincial, and federal governments for making the housing crisis a top priority.

As for what else they can do to spur housing development, Vancouver-based By the Bay Properties would like to see the out-of-province property tax cancelled. Doucet Developments would like to see incentives like bonuses, tax breaks, and a streamlined permit process. NSAR would like to see governments and developers working together to build more social, senior, and higher density housing.

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