Three kinds of hats symbolized Sackville’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as a dozen residents gathered Monday night at town hall around tables loaded with balloons, candies, coloured markers and big sheets of blank paper.
Mattheis said that opportunities are like gifts that need a little bit of help.
“Who gives help to the world’s best gift giver?” he asked. “Santa’s elf,” he answered, handing Garth Zwicker a red and white elf’s hat at the “opportunities” table.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the participants moved from table to table discussing and writing down their ideas as Mattheis, Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken and a trio of town managers mingled among them.
The exercise was part of a process to come up with a new business development strategy for the town.
In August, councillors awarded a $17,250 contract to Mattheis’s Nova Scotia consulting firm, 4/L Strategies, to develop the new business plan in partnership with Lions Gate Consulting of Vancouver. Mattheis is also Director of Economic and Business Development for the Municipality of East Hants in Nova Scotia.
Aside from Monday’s public consultation, Mattheis has been conducting research on the town, reviewing its organizational structure, talking with town managers, Opportunities New Brunswick and the group promoting development at TransCanada highway exit 506. He says he will be interviewing local business leaders before presenting a final report to town council in December.
Mattheis says that report will fit in with the town’s overall strategic plan adopted last year. “We’re not talking a huge document here,” he says. “We’re talking bite-sized recommendations that we expect the town to take some and not take some.”
What participants found
The 12 participants in Monday’s public consultation listed many town strengths including Sackville’s location in the centre of the Maritime provinces, its stable population with “easy-going locals,” cultural diversity and the presence of the university.
Weaknesses included flooding and climate change, lack of public awareness about the importance of supporting local businesses, lack of local support from the planning commission along with rigid zoning and high rents for commercial properties.
The participants found opportunities in marketing eco and agro tourism attractions in Asian markets, encouraging immigration, a multi-cultural food store, community artist studios and more collaboration with Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.