Rob Frost has had little choice but to hit the ground running as the new CAO of Hantsport.
Frost, a former business development officer with the Hants Regional Development Authority, started working for the Town of Hantsport Nov. 13, only 12 days after the executives from Scotia Investments Limited announced the company’s intent to close the financially-strapped Minas Basin Pulp and Power mill by mid-December.
The decision, a call that will lead to the elimination of 135 jobs in Hantsport, is one that has left many people questioning how the town can survive the loss of another major employment centre, almost two years after 42 jobs were lost with the idling of Fundy Gypsum’s operations.
Frost, who worked as an employment counsellor at the Job Resource Centre in Windsor for seven years before accepting a position with the RDA, says town officials are dedicated to finding ways to increase the town’s tax base, and spur economic development that will create new jobs in and around the Haven of Hospitality.
“Because it’s early days of Minas Basin, it’s hard to look at the positive, and those people that have lost their jobs, that’s a really tough spot to be in. There is a lot of supports that are getting in place for them as we speak and, at the end of the day, there is a lot of people that are looking to see what we can do to make sure that Hantsport stays successful,” said Frost.
There are some promising projects in the works that could help the town recover from the loss of the mill but, Frost says, nothing is set in stone at this point.
“The entire council and staff are interested in doing whatever is best for the town and its citizens. A closure like that is massive because it goes into all aspects of the town, but that’s not to say that there won’t be something down the road that will help bring back those jobs or different jobs to help keep the town moving forward.”
“I’ve always been intrigued by Hantsport since I moved to the area because it’s always seemed like a very tight-knit community and everybody seems to be proud to be from Hantsport.” - Rob Frost
Like Hantsport, Frost says many municipalities in Nova Scotia are struggling with declining populations, loss of industries or land limitations.
“Even though we’ve lost quite a bit of commercial tax base, we’re still fairly lucky to have the commercial tax base that we do have,” he noted.
The Prince Edward Island native said Hantsport’s small town charm is a pull factor that could potentially draw more people and businesses into the area; it’s also what made him interested in the chief administrative position left vacant by Jeff Lawrence’s departure.
“I’ve always been intrigued by Hantsport since I moved to the area because it’s always seemed like a very tight-knit community and everybody seems to be proud to be from Hantsport.”
Frost says many of the entrepreneurial leaders visiting Hantsport Nov. 6 as part of the provincial 21 Leaders Tour — a study examining the diverse economic realities faced throughout different regions of Nova Scotia — had many positive things to say about the town.
“It was interesting because they were all fresh eyes,” he said.
The leaders suggested capitalizing on the innovative projects undertaken in Hantsport — Minas Basin’s tidal energy accomplishments, the town’s wireless capabilities, the technological advances tied to the Valley Community Fibre Network — to promote what the town has to offer.
“They all (spoke) to us about how nice of a place this must be to live. They all picked up on how there is a really good sense of community.”