Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There Should Be More People Concerned...

In February the Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce had a Business Roundtable to discuss key issues facing our Community. When it was my turn to put forward my concerns I expressed the importance of becoming pro-active on a couple of fronts one of which is just starting to rear it head and that is the possibility of the ferry link at Wood Islands being terminated. I suggested that the Chamber strike a Committee to "get ready" for what could be a devastating blow to our Tourism industry, our service businesses and the local Eastern PEI economy. You only have to look at Digby and Yarmouth Counties in Nova Scotia and you can quickly see the devastation to the local economy with the closing of some of the ferry and airline services to these communities. I get a sense that the Federal Government are thinking of cutting funding the Wood Island service to Pictou and I think it is incumbent on us all to quickly develop a strategy plan to support this valuable link to our neighbouring Provinces.... I often suggest to friends and colleagues who are planning on a Maritime vacation to consider taking the Link here and take the ferry back (or vice-versa) and most who do always consider the trip as one of their vacation highlights... after reading the following story maybe it's time our business community starting thinking about a support strategy for this great link to our Province before it disappears... it's not only the workers who should be concerned.
Ferry review concerns workers
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
CBC News
Five years of funding for the ferry service expired in March. (CBC)
A one-year review of Northumberland Ferries, which operates between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, has workers concerned about the future of the service.
A $27-million, five-year contract with the federal government expired in March. Ottawa is now providing one year worth of funding while it reviews the operation and just how necessary it is.
Captain David White has devoted 46 years of his life working for Northumberland Ferries. He's crossed the strait between Wood Island and Caribou countless times but says he still gets a rush from it.
"To me, it's been my livelihood. It's been a good job for me," said White.
"Also I feel that we provide a necessary service to the community of P.E.I. and Nova Scotia."
Local MP Lawrence MacAulay helped broker the last deal for Northumberland Ferries, when serious cutbacks were proposed for the service, but avoided at the last minute.
"I do fear it and I understand only too well what it would do the economy," said MacAulay.
"It would hurt Charlottetown and it would be a bad blow to eastern Prince Edward Island, not only for workers on the ferry but much more than that. I think the tourism industry [would be hurt]."
MacAulay says he will fight to make sure that doesn't happen.
The review is weighing heavily on Tina MacDonald's mind. She's been with the company for 26 years.
"We never have that security with subsidies, I guess, that we would like to have in place," said MacDonald.
"That would be a big thing to have that locked in there, and know you have that security with the government."
The government review will continue through to March of next year.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Service Sells... so let's invest in it...

In the most recent edition of the Atlantic Business Magazine I wrote an article about our local tourism service levels.... now I'm hearing rumours of another "hair brain idea" that our Provincial Tourism Department has dreamed up to spend $750,000 to bring Regis and Kelly to PEI (the last being Big Break Mill River).... surely if our Government can't find a better way to invest this kind of money into services for our taxpayers or infrastructure for our Tourism industry then they could at least invest it into more "service level training" for young people working in our local industry.... and then we wouldn't have to "pay" to get Americans to visit here as they would come back here through good old word of mouth... if you see Minister Vessey tell him I'm "looking for him" as I can't imagine he's part of this scheme.... the following is the article I published in ABM...

Service sells… cutting wages doesn’t
Atlantic Business Magazine
May Issue 2010
by Tim Banks
Last year my wife and I spent part of our annual “driving” getaway in an older inn near downtown Lake Placid, New York.
The attention to detail and professionalism we received from a couple of young employees at check-in was more than impressive. I even felt confident enough to just take the keys, without previewing the room as I always do, after the pleasant young clerk said, “If you’re not happy with your room just call down and we’ll make sure you are.”
It was evident that staff members had been well-trained to deliver optimal customer service to the inn’s guests.
I recently invited some out-of-province associates to meet over breakfast at a hotel near my office. When one of my guests ordered French toast, the nervous young server asked whether she wanted “white or whole wheat.” Surprised that French toast was available in whole wheat, my guest chose that. When the server returned with nothing but two slices of toasted store-bought whole wheat bread on a large plate it became painfully clear why our Atlantic tourism industry is weakening.
Formerly our best tourists, our American neighbors are getting a better bang for their buck staying at home, especially now that our dollars are on par. Tourism operators south of the border are investing in their young workers and training them to provide exceptional customer service.
I don’t know what tourism operators are doing in other parts of Atlantic Canada but in PEI a few are trying to convince the provincial government to adopt a two-tiered minimum wage strategy. Instead of respecting and working with our youth to strengthen our economy, they’re trying to peel back their wages.
We’re due for a change in attitude about ourselves, our youth, our place in the world, our capabilities and our expectations of government. It’s time to drop our parochial worldview and realize we’re part of the global economy, competing and trading with local and international players. That our local economic levers affect, and are affected by, a large variety of outside factors.
We need to believe in the capabilities of our core industries (agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism), but we also need to seek out new opportunities and develop a spirit of innovation. We need to respect our young workers and train them in service and delivery. That’s where our focus has to be to make our region successful again.
Let’s develop our young people into positive contributors to our community and encourage them to pursue their ambitions here in Atlantic Canada. I believe each of us has unlimited potential to improve our society. If we unlock the potential of our youth while simultaneously building sufficient economic activity and structure to grow our working population, our community will thrive.
The potential to build our society lies within the abilities, ambitions, resources and needs of our community and if there’s anything I’ve learned in business, it’s that anything is possible through ingenuity, hard work and cooperation.
Business leaders need to step up and mentor young entrepreneurs, providing opportunities for them within our companies, guiding them towards establishing innovative new businesses. By ushering young people into the business community we’ll strengthen our position in any economic climate.
Atlantic Canada is a great place to live and visit, offering a quality of life unparalleled in the rest of the world. Our environment, our scenery, our heritage and our people all contribute to a wonderful community that I am proud to belong to. But we all must prepare for change. We can have a strong economy with many rewarding jobs and vibrant businesses. We can have progress and prosperity now and in the future if we strive vigorously to get it. Why not start by training our young people to better serve visitors to the region instead of pulling back their wages?
At breakfast one morning at the inn in Lake Placid, I asked for a local newspaper. The employee apologized for not having one but within the hour she tracked me down and gave me a copy someone presumably had fetched in town. A sign on an employee service door at the rear of the property said, “Through These Doors Pass The Most Exceptional Employees in the Adirondacks. Winners of a 4 diamond AAA Award for every year from 1985 to 2009.”

Why can’t we be there?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Well Said....

I often hear Islanders whining about PEI's health care system and maybe we all should take a deep breath and thank God we don't live in one of our neighbouring Provinces where you could easily spend 3 hours traveling to see a health care specialist... it’s brave of the Premier to “speak up” and I’m sure he’ll catch some flak from Souris and the Western end of the Island but the way PEI’s health care costs are going we have to start dealing in reality otherwise we'll all be paying out of our pocketbooks...
Ghiz says Islanders "spoiled" with access to health care
The Guardian
Premier Robert Ghiz says Islanders are "spoiled" because they can access health-care services only minutes from their home.
During a debate on the health-care budget Wednesday afternoon, the P.E.I. premier said he was told he may have to go for a test at Prince County Hospital in Summerside. The Charlottetown born and raised premier said initially he was "ticked off" that he would have to make the 45-minute drive to Summerside.
Then Ghiz said he realized how lucky he was that he only had to travel the 45 minutes for a life-saving test when residents of other provinces have to travel hours to reach a hospital.
Ghiz said later he ended up having the test in Charlottetown.