Recently, Atlantic Canada Business Magazine hosted a conference to share the latest economic news for PEI, and to promote discussion around potential solutions to economic challenges facing this province.
They spoke about what is working and what is holding us back, and offered innovative suggestions for unlocking the region’s growth potential.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan spoke about PEI’s growing economy, with statistics covering the years 2016 to 2017.
- PEI’s average real GDP growth was 2.7 percent, the third-highest in the country.
- Annual employment growth is 2.5 percent, the highest in the country. Since August 2016, PEI has created 6,000 new full-time jobs, and currently 1,000 jobs are unfilled.
- PEI’s population grew by 1.7 percent, the highest rate in the country.
- PEI’s population is at 153,200, and is expected to rise to 175,000 by 2027.
- PEI has the highest number of young people per capita in the country.
However, PEI’s per capita GDP is about 72 percent of the national average. Our rental vacancy rate is under one percent, and more than 75 percent of our exports go to the United States, which has become a volatile market.
“Our economy is diversified like no other province,” says Premier MacLauchlan. “In 2017, PEI experienced growth in 18 out of our top 20 sectors. There are many examples of this growth:
- Georgetown Timber was closed a few years ago, but now the new businesses at that location employ 100 people.
- A fish plant operation in North Lake was closed, but now it is open and buses are taking employees from Charlottetown to work there.
- A pizza factory in Desable was closed 10 years ago, but now it is a going concern with new businesses on location.
- Mill River Resort is now a strong operation under private ownership.
- There have been big investments in fisheries and agriculture. There has been growth at Slemon Park, the West Royalty Industrial Park, and the BioCommons.
- There was a 50 percent increase in construction last year, and a 20 percent increase so far in 2018.
“Going forward, we need to focus on workforce development and creating more affordable housing. This year, the market is responding to housing needs with $300 million in new residential construction, but there is a time lag in planning and infrastructure.
“PEI’s immigrant population is a growth driver. We are also seeing more Islanders opting to move home for career and entrepreneurial opportunities. We need to determine where the barriers are, so that future generations have the skills to thrive.”
Suggestions from the audience
Roundtable discussions focused on PEI’s advantages and disadvantages, and what we can do to improve things in the future. The results of the discussions will be published in the January issue of Atlantic Canada Business Magazine.
A panel of three Islanders talked about why they live and work on PEI
Ann Worth, Executive Director, Meetings & Conventions PEI and owner of Worth Consulting Group
“There are hundreds of reasons why I live here,” says Ann. “The main reason why I have a business here and I have lived here almost 30 years is because I am passionate about the place and the community and business success.
“For me, prosperity is about having a great quality of life that includes success in business and a work-life balance. We live in one of the best places on earth. Business people here are successful because we have the conditions and support we need to grow.
“Tourism promotion is working really well. What we have is special and unique, and we are building our brand.”
For more about Meetings and Conventions PEI, visit www.meetingsandconventionspei.com.
Max Knechtel, Business Development Manager, Sculpin QA
“I am from the Island, and I stay here because I have so many connections that are near and dear to my heart, and I want to make it a better place for everybody.
“I would like to see PEI raise its profile in Canada and internationally to show that we are succeeding. People from around the world who work for Sculpin QA have a very positive impression of PEI. When our company started here 13 years ago, there basically wasn’t a gaming industry here. Now we have people from all over the world – the UK, Brazil, Russia, China, and more – who have made a life here. They know they can succeed in this industry and live on PEI.
“The IT sector needs graduates and skilled senior staff who are ready to work from the get-go. We worked very closely with Holland College and UPEI to develop their videogame education programs, so that new graduates don’t have to leave the Island to get experience and then come back. Now our new graduates are up to the standards we need.”
For more about Sculpin QA, visit www.sculpinqa.com.
Erin McGrath-Gaudet, Director PEI & Intergovernmental Policy, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
“I have worked for the CFIB for almost 12 years,” says Erin. “I stay on PEI because I get to do a job I am passionate about. Being part of the success of small businesses has been a dream job. Also, I can live in the middle of the country and still be close to Charlottetown, and have my sister and mother live next door.
“Bringing international students to UPEI has definitely been successful. They are marketing PEI as a safe place to send your kids to school. I also see a lot of cooperation in the region. We are a small marketplace, and the more we can cooperate and work together, the better.
“I measure prosperity by the success of small businesses. PEI needs to turn on its head the way it does business. If municipal, provincial and federal governments are constantly setting up roadblocks, we will not be able to get things done. It is critical that government creates a business environment that allows entrepreneurs to do their best and reduce the regulatory burden.”
For more about the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, visit www.cfib-fcei.ca.