The April 24 print edition of The Compass shines a spotlight on what is becoming a very intriguing competition for business attraction in the Conception Bay North region, with two very ambitious commercial developments slowly taking shape in Spaniard's Bay and Bay Roberts. Both sites are separated by a little more than four kilometres of the Veterans Memorial Highway.
If you believe those behind the projects, expects these business parks to completely change the economic and social landscape of a large swath of the Avalon Peninsula, impacting up to 50,000-plus people. Those accustomed to travelling to St. John's and area for their retail and other consumer needs, they say, will soon have the same options and selections closer to home.
Expect many millions to be spent on infrastructure — water and sewer, roads and much more — and building construction, and hundreds of jobs to be created. Big Box stores similar to those in St. John's, Clarenville and Gander are in the offing, it's being said. Those considering moving to the area will soon have another reason to do so, and those already living here another reason to stay and prosper.
Some might say it all sounds too good to be true, and to be frank, there has been more than enough skepticism to go around. But advocates of the business parks were doing their best last week to reverse the negativity, and based on recent developments, it's hard not to get caught up in the hype.
Developer Brad Roberts suggested that $45 million will be invested into the Spaniard's Bay site over the next 18 months, and that consumers should be able to start doing business at the 240-acre Veterans Memorial Business Park in about two years. Officials with the Town of Spaniard's Bay are ebullient about the project, with Mayor John Drover suggesting as many as 2,000 jobs may be created in the coming years.
The proposed site in Bay Roberts, at about 60 acres, is much smaller, but the level of enthusiasm among town officials is also soaring. The town is inviting proposals/bids from those interested in purchasing and developing the site, and that process should start to unfold following the April 27 deadline.
The Town of Bay Roberts should be applauded for inviting in the private sector. Initially, council had planned to oversee the development of the park. Such a venture, however, is best left in the hands of entrepreneurs who are willing to risk their own capital.
What that said, all the hype is hardly surprising.
The economic situation in much of the Trinity-Conception region has been overwhelmingly positive in recent years, driven by an oil-fuelled economy in the St. John's metropolitan area, where many in this region commute for work, and the advancement of megaprojects in places like Long Harbour, where several thousands tradespeople are now on the job, building a colossal nickel processing plant. When it's complete in a few years, it will employ some 450 people. Towns such as Whitbourne and Blaketown are among those feeling the early impacts.
Development has also been fuelled by cash brought back by workers from the oil fields of Alberta and a construction and mining boom in Labrador.
These parks are an effort to capitalize on this upswing in activity, and ensure Conception Bay North is an economic centre for the region. To be sure, this is already the case, with the area from Clarke's Beach to Spaniard's Bay, which includes Bay Roberts, seeing a marked increase in population. According to the 2011 Census, for example, Bay Roberts grew by 7.5 per cent since 2006, while the growth rate in Clarke's Beach was even higher, at 8.3 per cent.
A handful of high-profile business have also opened in Bay Roberts in recent years, and there's every indication this is a growing trend.
The housing market is also very robust, with some describing the Trinity-Conception region as the brightest real estate story outside of St. John's.
To say the region has been reinvigorated would be an understatement. And that, for the most part, is a really good thing.
— Terry Roberts