MAIN BROOK, NL – Experienced entrepreneur Ben Wiper sees the Great Northern Peninsula as a land of opportunity.
Having now settled into Main Brook after nearly a year, Wiper went from working with the Northern Lights Seafood plant to becoming a town councillor, small business consultant and president and CEO of GNP Wireless Solutions.
Using his background in IT and economics, as well as teaching experience in South Korea, Wiper hopes to encourage and help develop business opportunities along the Great Northern Peninsula region.
“Promoting entrepreneurship is my top goal,” Wiper said. “To be able to lead by example and encourage people to take control of their own destiny and economic future – that’s the kind of stuff where I think I can have the most impact.”
Since they arrived in April of last year, Wiper and his wife have found joy in the communal, spacious and independent lifestyle offered in rural Newfoundland.
Wiper says the couple are doing all they can to ingrain themselves into the area by getting involved with municipal politics and economic development.
“I did my time in the city and it’s not my thing,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, it’s appealing to have the chance to affect change and make things happen in a small community. To be able to see the impact of what you’re doing first hand is not often what you get if you’re one person in a sea of five million.”
Wiper sees the sense of community in rural towns like Main Brook as a marketable trait to encourage both immigration and business investment.
“Before this year, I had never caught my own fish, never snared an animal, never cooked out in the woods, all this stuff,” he said. “I think a lot of people take for granted the untouched beauty in the region and the ability to live the majority of your life quite independently. That is something that is foreign to a lot of Canadians and there is a huge untapped demand there.”
Since he went public with his small business-consulting firm in March, Wiper says he has already had several locals reach out to him in hopes of escaping the three-weeks-on, three-weeks-off work routines and finding employment that will keep them grounded in their community and with their families.
To Wiper, a key aspect of his consulting is changing perception – that it’s not events that have control over a person’s life, but ultimately it is a person’s own actions that dictate their future.
“There needs to be a shift from blaming others for why things aren’t happening to a belief that what happens is within your realm of control,” he said. “You can shape your own destiny just by not giving up.”
Currently, Wiper’s main pursuit is developing an industrial and commercial waste management company in the area. His 3F Waste Recovery project is to take the wasted materials from farms, fish plants and forestry operations and turn them into products that can be sold.
He says the provincial government’s interest in increasing food security on the island and the coming investments in this area make the project an ideal future prospect. While it is still in the initial stages of finding investors, he is focusing on fish-based compost.
“Every Newfoundlander I’ve spoken to remembers their parents or grandparents using capelin on their gardens,” he said. “The adoption of fish-based composting here would be very quick.
Why deal with all that weight and cost with artificial chemical fertilizers when you’ve got a fish-based fertilizer right here that otherwise would just go to waste.”
Wiper also hopes to encourage people to access various funding options that can be a major boost in growing business opportunities. This in turn can help with attracting Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from away to return, and keep the younger population home.
“There’s such a generous amount of funding and grants to this region that is often not utilized,” Wiper said. “With the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, Low Carbon Economy Fund, Innovation Superclusters Funds – there alone you got almost $3.5 billion that pretty much any business that isn’t service based could qualify for out here.”
With a number of proposals and projects submitted to government for contracts already, Wiper says he is optimistic for the future of the Great Northern Peninsula and that there is serious potential to grow the area.
“All I see is opportunity here,” he said. “It’s a blank slate for an entrepreneurial-minded person.”