ESREN expected to close

By Helen Murphy    

SHERBROOKE – The Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network is expected to cease operations in the near future.

The Town of Antigonish voted to withdraw from ESREN at its Monday evening council meeting; Antigonish County council and St. Mary’s council will address their status at meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings respectively.

"At this point in time, given what we know, we will begin our wind down process on April 1, 2019," ESREN CEO John Beaton told The Journal Tuesday. "Our municipal partners will set up a wind down committee whom I will be working with as we complete our asset management process and other matters related to dissolution of the organisation."

Recent decisions by the District of Guysborough, Mulgrave and Port Hawkesbury to pull out of ESREN put the remaining three members in a difficult position, in terms of continuing and shouldering the costs of the running the organization. Guysborough and Mulgrave both pointed to financial reasons for not continuing with ESREN membership. Port Hawkesbury has applied to join the Cape Breton REN.

St. Mary’s CAO Marvin MacDonald told The Journal Tuesday that the municipality is committed to working with partners in neighbouring communities on a project-by-project basis.

“This is a critical time for us in economic development,” he said. “We will continue working with our partners on projects such as the Wild Islands Initiative and the Tourism Strategy for Guysborough County.”

"The ESREN was an interesting partnership between five-six municipal units and the Province that certainly had its ups and downs," Beaton said about the organization. "In the end I feel that there were too many factors of the REN model and other variables that prevented it from being a solution for all partners.

"On behalf of myself and my staff, we were pleased to have worked with our partnering municipal units on achieving some innovative partnership projects and ongoing initiatives that showed impact. I have all the confidence that the municipal units we have worked with will continue to focus on all aspects of local and regional economic development including business support, investment readiness/attraction, local and regional growth, labour supply and job creation."

With a mandate to provide regional economic development leadership, ESREN is governed by a volunteer board of directors comprised of leaders in the business community. The board reports to the Liaison Oversight Committee, representing stakeholders and partners.