by Stella Shepard
The annual Explore Economics East conference was hosted by the Eastern PEI Chamber of Commerce (EPEICC).
The chamber is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting its members and the economic environment to the community. There are 250 Chamber members and 13 new members have joined since the summer of 2018.
Lori MacGregor, Executive Director of the EPEICC, opened the conference by welcoming a packed room of entrepreneurs, service providers, members, Board of Directors, and government officials.
Partners of EPEICC offered business related information throughout the half-day conference. Lori encouraged people to speak with the service providers and to ask questions about the programs and services they offer.
“This is the Chamber’s third Explore Economics East conference where we highlight small to medium businesses in Eastern PEI,” says Lori.
“The conference is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build strong relationships, learn from other entrepreneurs, and make contact with programs and services that are available through our partners.
“We must build strong relationships with our fellow Chamber members, see our membership grow, and increase the value and incentives the Chamber offers, which will benefit our local business community.”
For more information about the Eastern PEI Chamber of Commerce, visit www.epeicc.ca.
Mark MacDonald is the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Northumberland Ferries Limited, Bay Ferries Limited, and other related companies. He entered the ferry business as CEO in 2003 and with colleagues acquired the business in 2007.
“In 1941, a group of Island families with support from the Government of Canada established the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service,” says Mark. “The head office has been located in Charlottetown for its entire history. We also have offices in the different terminals where we operate.”
“Over the last several years, we have tried to greatly increase our focus on customer experience. In June, 2015 we launched a feedback channel that allows customers to comment about our services by text messages.
“Since the launch, we have received thousands of text messages, and we deal with any customer issue before the ship hits the dock.
“The majority of the text messages have turned out to be positive. We try to share the positive feedback with all of our employees.
“In 2015, we took on the management and operations of the Visitors Information Centres onboard the vessels, employing four full-time staff from June to October.
“We continue to expand our onboard programming and we try to showcase the culture of the Maritime provinces with live music and locally sourced foods, draft beers and wine.
“We go to considerable lengths to measure our customer service with a very extensive public survey done every year. We are very proud of these detailed studies.
“We remain very heavily involved with partnerships with our port destinations, tourism organizations, and many others. We are in business to support businesses, so if there are ways for us to do better, come and talk to us.”
For more information visit www.ferries.ca.
VP Sales & Marketing of Upstreet Craft Brewing
Upstreet Craft Brewing opened in 2015 at 41 Allen Street, Charlottetown. The company has since expanded to two more locations: Craft Beer Corner at 156 Great George Street, and Upstreet BBQ Brewhouse in Dartmouth, NS.
The company brews and serves craft beer, and offers casual dining and live musical entertainment. “At Upstreet, we believe in community.” says Brent.
“Imagine having a gathering place to meet friends and neighbours and to celebrate camaraderie.”
In 2016, Upstreet became one of the first businesses on PEI to gain B Corp Certification. It’s a global movement of leaders who find innovative new ways to use business as a force for good. They meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability, and aspire to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
“When the company started three years ago, we had three employees, and now we have close to 80 between our three locations,” says Brent. “We are always hiring because staff are being upgraded to new positions.
“The three pillars of the company are: we are always having fun, we always have the right people working with us, and, we are always out in the community, volunteering.
“We keep our staff active in the community because it’s the community that supports us. Giving back is our biggest asset. When we hire somebody, we look for people who have volunteered and understand what community is.
“Ten percent of sales from our Do-Gooder APA beer are given back to a community project. This year, we raised enough money to bring artists from as far away as California to put on workshops that attracted people from the Maritime region.”
For more information visit www.upstreetcraftbrewing.com.
Co-owner of Cardigan Feed Services Ltd.
Mary Grant has been in the agricultural business for more than 40 years. She and her family, Herman, Margaret, and George, own Cardigan Feed Services Ltd., Cardigan Bearing and Steel, Soya-source, and Three B Transport. Between all four companies, they have 35 employees.
“Our biggest HR challenge is finding Class 1 truck drivers,” says Mary.
“Because of two accidents in the past, our insurance company demands that we must hire drivers with at least three years driving experience on the big rigs.
“Truck drivers are very important employees in our company. I have learned over the years to be very respectful of their time, and not keep them waiting.
“We don’t have trouble filling most other positions. We always pay above minimum wage.
“I’ve learned a lot being in business for more than 40 years. Business is booming for us right now, so it’s hard to get all the work done. I realized a long time ago, it doesn’t matter who does the work as long as it’s done well and on time.
“About 20 years ago, I became extremely flexible with my workforce. I learned to contract out a lot of the work. Three of my four bookkeepers are on contract. A lot of our trucking is contracted out and the drivers will go anywhere to get the job done.
“Every business needs to step outside the box to get the work done and be extremely flexible about time and who is going to do the job.
“Systems are the key to everything. If something isn’t right for one of our customers, I don’t look at what one of my employees did wrong. I look at what caused my system to let me down, and what I need to do to improve my system.”
For more information, visit www.cardiganfeedservices.ca.
HR Manager of 3 Points Aviation
The company started in 2004 and has now expanded to four facilities in Newfoundland, Ontario, Alberta, and Charlottetown. The Charlottetown location has 45 employees, and with the move of their Repair & Overhaul department to Calgary, will focus on manufacturing legacy aircraft components.
“Skilled trades people are extremely important to the company,” says Dianne. “Without them, we will not be able to expand our manufacturing business and meet the needs of our customers.
“We are now looking to hire eight to ten CNC Programmers and Machinist positions. We will continue to invest in Prince Edward Island. However, it is getting difficult, as we are unable to find enough skilled trades people to do the work.
“We owned a huge building for repair & overhaul, and were employing 26 people. In September 2018, I had to announce we were moving our Repair & Overhaul services to Calgary, Alberta because we were unable to provide the required services for our customers here on PEI.”
HR recruitment is a team effort
“I was just speaking with one of the panelists a few moments ago, and he shared information that is very informative and useful.
“So, that’s why we are all here today, because we would like to partner with you and help each other with the challenges we are all facing.
“We took a half-page colour advertisement at a cost $3,000 in the local newspaper advertising for skilled trade people and received no response.
“We have to find less costly, more effective ways of advertising for workers. We need to make sure we are reaching out and talking to our sons and daughters, encouraging our youth to consider working in the trades. We also need to make sure young people know that skilled trades are not gender specific.”