Scott Ferguson

Scott Ferguson is the new chief executive officer of the Pictou County Regional Enterprise Network.

(Goodwin photo)

The Pictou County Regional Enterprise Network (REN) has a new man at the helm, with a world of experience.

Scott Ferguson has been hired as the REN’s chief executive officer (CEO) and has already been meeting with partners and stakeholders throughout the county.

“The key is really understanding the connections and working with the other stakeholders first,” said Ferguson, who moved to Caribou River earlier this year. “With the other RENs in the province, there are a number of best practices that they’re already doing, but I think the starting point is to understand the community at the grassroots level.”

With his position just recently announced, Ferguson has already begun meeting with the mayors and warden in the county, as well as talking with organizations and businesses. He has more than three decades of experience in economic development, having been president and CEO of Trade Centre Limited in Halifax, and CEO of the World Trade Centres Association in New York.

“They have a lot of similarities to Pictou County,” Ferguson said of his previous roles. In Halifax, the Trade Centre Limited is a Crown corporation that worked to bring a lot of events in to the province’s capital and built the World Trade Centre there.

“The strategy and focus (in Halifax) was to identify benefits that would move to the entire province, not just the capital city. Halifax was used as an anchor or an attention piece.”

The corporation also helped provide employment, adding to the province’s coffers, and worked with other organizations in the province on events, such as the 55+ Games in New Glasgow.

“In New York, I worked with 230 World Trade Centres in 90 countries and visited a lot of them,” said Ferguson. “Each had their grassroots operation. I can see both of those roles being applicable in Pictou County.”

Ferguson says there are a number of agendas for Pictou County and the rest of the province, especially rural areas, and those challenges need to be built upon to fill in some gaps while building an economic future.

One of the biggest areas is immigration, and Ferguson says rural areas need to recognize there’s a gap and prioritize on it.

“For every 10 people retiring, we only have seven people entering the workforce, and 80 per cent of our immigration flow is to central Canada, or cities such as Halifax. Every area needs to prioritize immigration.”

He says family-owned and operated businesses produce 90 per cent of employment in the region and it’s estimated 30,000 businesses in Atlantic Canada will be sold, retired or wrapped up in the next 10 years.

“Succession is so important and we want something to happen, we want those businesses to be supported,” he said.

The digital economy is a growing one, especially in times of the current pandemic, and small and medium-sized businesses need support in that particular area. He says the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program currently in operation in the Pictou region is working on a long-term digital economy project, as well as helping small and medium-sized businesses navigate services.

“A lot of organizations are already doing good work, and we already have a number of things we’re doing a terrific job on,” said Ferguson.

“We are in a situation where our capital city has done well, so now we need to look at our priorities in every part of the province. Then things can be fine-tuned and will come from understanding more of what our partners are doing.”

Through his experience, Ferguson looks at challenges as more opportunities to work together as a community.

“I think our biggest opportunity is unlocking the power of Pictou County, of the municipalities and organizations that are here,” he said. “We live a wonderful lifestyle and have a lot going for us and it’s a matter of playing a role in that. Our timing is right. Nova Scotia as a province has a number of significant challenges, but a lot of different parts of Canada are facing those same things. The time is now for us to focus on rural Nova Scotia.”

He said 55 per cent of the province’s population lives outside of Halifax Regional Municipality, so it’s time to shift the focus to the rural areas.

Ryan Fraser, the REN’s board chairperson, says they’re thrilled to have Ferguson’s leadership.

“Ferguson’s international recognition for his ability to foster organizational growth will help move the PCREN into its next phase, post-start-up,” he said in a press release.

Reporter

Raissa Tetanish has been a journalist for the past 15 years, and has spent four years as editor of both The Light and Hub Now. She joined the Pictou Advocate in April 2021.