Town of New Glasgow
The Town of New Glasgow doesn’t believe in just meeting expectations – it believes in exceeding them.
Take, for example, the 135-year-old community’s commitment to the environment and the value townspeople place on energy conservation and sustainable energy use. Between July 2006 and March 2007, more than 250 residents attended town hall get-togethers, ward meetings, workshops, and committee sessions – and agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent by 2013.
As part of this initiative, the town completed the first three milestones of Partners for Climate Protection, a program of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. “The town is now at the fourth of the five levels and has been a leader in this area for several years. New Glasgow is one of only a few community of our size in the country to have reached this level,” says Mayor Barrie MacMillan.
The expertise and experience the town has in this area, he adds, is something it is sharing with other communities. “We believe in sharing and partnering with others. We’re all stronger as a result. A rising tide lifts all boats.”
New Glasgow has been serving its neighbours across the province, and across the country, since it was settled in 1784. “Our town is the service and commercial centre for northeastern Nova Scotia and its development has come from a long standing spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurship,” says MacMillan, who was elected mayor in 2008.
The town itself has approximately 9,500 residents but services a local base from Pictou County of 46,000 people every day. “Our wider regional population draw is over 100,000 people who come here regularly to buy goods and services,” says MacMillan. “We service daily a much larger population than our own residents and neighbouring communities and assets such as the regional hospital, regional library as well as many financial institutions and a wide selection of retails add to our strength.”
New Glasgow, which is named after Glasgow, Scotland, is a riverside town. The town was settled close to the local waterway and grew from there. Today, the waterfront continues to play a central role in the success of the town and the lives of its residents. “The town launched a riverfront redevelopment program in the early 90s to restore the historic, environmental, recreational and economic potential of the town," says MacMillan. “Our current Downtown Revitalization project builds on that regeneration.”
As with all town projects, these projects are collaborative effort, he adds. “Our riverfront and trails regeneration was completed by engaging the community. There has to be community ownership. Our trail system has become one of our most valued assets for both residents and visitors.”
That ownership has resulted in strategic planning that is renewed every five years and a newly completed 20-year Downtown Revitalization plan that is designed to make New Glasgow’s downtown core a natural and sustainable destination. The vision: In 2030, the downtown of New Glasgow has become a haven and a destination for local residents, tourists and small business. Visitors and residents will know they have entered downtown New Glasgow as special signage, lighting, street trees, sidewalks and streetscape elements will reinforce the downtown as a special place to visit, recreate and live.
“We realize this is a long term vision but looking forward with innovative, enterprise and imagination is what we do best. Already there have been great enhancements through participation by the private sector and all orders of government and it has become a catalyst for growth,” says MacMillan.
“We recognize that progress requires the involvement of our citizens, our neighbouring communities and our stakeholders,” he adds.
That commitment to team work is resulting in many new cooperative projects among Pictou County’s six municipal units. In addition to supporting regional services such as economic development, tourism and waste management, the units are now working on a shared services authority which will explore more opportunities for partnerships and consistent standards, policies and services across the region.
One of New Glasgow’s distinguishing features is its location. “Geography is critical to business development as well as lifestyle options,” says MacMillan, also a past Executive Director of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce. “We are strategically located between Halifax and Cape Breton. We are close to Moncton and only 15 minutes from Northumberland Ferries to PEI.”
That central location means a daily ebb and flow of activity that helps to shape New Glasgow and contributes directly to its economic sense – and its sense of community. “As a commercial service centre, our location helps business to get goods and services, and people to access services. We are also an ideal central spot for Maritime vacationers. They have to come our way when heading to world class destination such as Cape Breton and PEI. That is to our advantage,” notes MacMillan.
“Our central location has been a positive factor in our business and population growth,” he adds. “We are the only community in Pictou County that did not decrease in population in the last census. The growth was very slight but the stability is there. Our goal is to maintain our size or increase modestly.”
New Glasgow’s reputation as a vibrant and hospitable place to do business and to visit is certainly contributing to the economic growth. In recent times, New Glasgow warmly welcomed the Fred Page Cup, which is the Eastern Canadian Junior A Championships, Nova Scotia Music Week, and also hosted an international women’s curling event, that is expected to return after the Olympics. Two years ago Hockey Day in Canada came into town for coverage as the only Atlantic Canadian satellite site and as the home of NHLers Jon Sim and Colin White and the town is home to several signature tourism events such as the New Glasgow Music Jubilee, the Johnny Miles Running Event Weekend, the Festival of the Tartans and the Race on the River Dragon Boat Festival.
“These things don’t happen by accident,” says MacMillan. “They happen because of the community spirit, tradition of corporate leadership and sense of volunteerism.
“The people of New Glasgow embrace new challenges,” he adds. “Our citizens and our business community step up to the plate time after time after time.” In 2009 New Glasgow was named the Model Volunteer Community of the Year and was awarded the top rating of five blooms in the nationally known Communities in Bloom program. “ Our volunteer spirit is inspiring says MacMillan and the good rating from CIB is testament to a community that cares about what makes a good town, from caring about the environment to preserving our heritage to community involvement and business leaders.”