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LIFTing Lunenburg County

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Lunenburg County

Identifying opportunities for economic growth

November 2022


LIFTING LUNENBURG COUNTY

Welcome to LIFTing Lunenburg County!

This report was completed as a supporting document for the foundation of LIFT Lunenburg County.

The goal of these pages is to document the products and services residents perceive to be missing

from retail businesses in Lunenburg County, providing factual research to guide LIFT Lunenburg

County and those interested in starting or expanding businesses in evaluating ideas and identifying

opportunities.

We want this information to be broadly circulated, helping to inspire new businesses and reignite the

entrepreneurial spirit that has long been a part of the history and heritage of this county, particularly

with our youth. We believe young people need to understand there are opportunities right here in

our area, and with the microloans available from LIFT Lunenburg County, the community is standing

with them.

We also hope the comments and observations reported here will stimulate conversations and actions

around improving collaboration between businesses.

If Lunenburg County is going to continue to have a vibrant, sustainable economy for the future, we

need to stop thinking “things are good enough.” They may be for now, but will the next generation

of business owners be able to survive and thrive with the existing volume of business and product

offerings? Collaboration between businesses may be a critical action to address labour challenges

and access new business opportunities.

This report was funded by the Fulcher Foundation’s gift of $1 million to support a microlending

initiative. Loans of up to $10,000 are available for new businesses or the expansion of existing

businesses. With every loan comes coaching and encouragement from a group of volunteers with the

extensive business experience critical to building out a strong entrepreneurial sector.

Lifting Lunenburg County is all about using local money and local people to establish and expand

local businesses, creating a thriving, diverse and resilient community for us all to enjoy.

Elspeth McLean-Wile

Elspeth McLean-Wile, Chairperson of the

Lunenburg County Community Fund Board

2022 LCCF Board Members

® Wayne Foster

® David Outhouse

® Robert Clark

® Leena Ali

® Phil Langford

2022 LIFT Lunenburg County

MicroLending Advisory Group Members

® Gordon Prince

® Lynn Hennigar

® Jennifer Naugler

® John Crace

® John Kinley

® Dale Kelly

1


INTRODUCTION

This report presents the results of an online survey of Lunenburg County residents conducted in

November and December 2021, and a series of in-depth, qualitative interviews conducted during the

same period. The objective of both was to ascertain what gaps people perceive in the amenities,

products and services in the County by asking what things they need and do in their communities,

what things they have to leave their communities for, and how far they travel to satisfy their wants

and needs.

We also asked both groups directly what they love about living in Lunenburg County, what frustrates

them, and how they would like Lunenburg County’s communities to develop in the future. The results

are meant to inform the development of a new micro-lending initiative, as they show what residents

believe are priority areas for investment.

This illustrated version published in November 2022 is a summary of the original report and its

appendices, which can be found in their entirety at www.LiftLC.ca

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

® Lunenburg County residents believe the county’s most important assets are its natural beauty,

quality and pace of life, proximity to Halifax and its people—their friendliness as well as their

talents and skills.

® The people who live in Lunenburg County communities want to see their populations grow

and diversify, and their infrastructure and economies grow and diversity without losing

what makes them special already—their small-town character and charm.

® Residents want to see greater investment and development in health and wellness, imagined

broadly to include not just doctors and emergency rooms, but alternative health practitioners as

well. They also want to see investment and growth in green technology.

® Lunenburg County residents want to see more development in arts, culture and entertainment—

perhaps best summed up as “things to see and do” for all ages.

® Residents recognize that Lunenburg County is a tourist destination, but they are keen to see

development that benefits residents and tourists alike, year-round. Key areas for this type

of development are arts, culture and entertainment (music venues and festivals) and

recreation (one suggestion for an affordable, public, no-frills sauna / spa complex such as those

found across the Nordic countries).

® Residents want development in independent, unique, niche businesses across the county, and

they want to see businesses work together to help one another thrive.

® Some Lunenburg County businesses are doing innovative, collaborative things, but more could be

done. People with experience in business emphasized the need for a third-party facilitator as

it is difficult for businesspeople to do this work “side of desk,” competition sometimes deters

collaboration, and volunteers are burnt out.

® People who live in Lunenburg County can find most of the goods and services they need inside

the county, but most often leave their communities or the county (or both) to go to a specialist

medical appointment; shop for furniture and major home appliances, specialty food

items, and clothing; and attend public concerts, plays or art shows. These are potential

areas where a business could fill a niche in the County.

2


WHERE DO WE FIND WHAT

WHAT WE HAVE

Most respondents said they could get groceries, take-out and dine-in food, building supplies, outdoor

recreation, and auto repair in their home communities, although less than half say they shop for

clothing in their home communities.

WHAT WE ROUTINELY LEAVE LUNENBURG COUNTY FOR

® concerts, dinner theatres, performances

® better prices and selection for clothing, major appliances and building supplies

® doctors and medical specialists

® niche stores (ethnic foods, outdoor stores, clothing and shoes, furniture)

® niche services (guitar repair)

The County’s proximity to Halifax, in fact, came up as an asset for residents in many interviews.

However, most still wished they could experience more arts and culture and find a wider variety of

independent, unique, specialty stores closer to home.

CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Children’s activities are very low on the

list of prevalence in the graph on the

next page, and while this partly stems

from the fact that only 35 people in the

sample live with children or teenagers,

the results still point to a lack of

options (structured activities,

places to hang out) for children in the

county.

3


WHAT WE WANT AND NEED

The following data represents responses from a survey of 147 people:

School-aged children in my household go to school

Children in my home go to lessons or structured activities

Children in my home go to daycare

People under age 18 in my household go somewhere public …

I attend a place of worship

I visit a public swimming pool

I volunteer

I use a gym or other exercise facility

I visit a public ice rink

People in my household attend university or college

I visit an accountant’s office

I visit a lawyer’s office

I get my vehicle repaired

I work at my job

I attend a farmer’s market

I visit a bank branch

I go to the movies

I get takeout food

I see my family doctor/general practitioner

I shop for building supplies

I shop for groceries

I do something recreational outdoors (hiking, swimming etc.)

I shop for specialty food items

I attend public concerts, plays or art shows

I shop for major home appliances and furniture

I dine in restaurants

I shop for clothing for myself or others

I go to specialist medical appointments

0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160

WHY WE SHOP ELSEWHERE

Residents were most likely to say they leave Lunenburg County entirely for specialist medical

appointments, restaurants, to shop for clothing, furniture and major home appliances, to attend

public concerts or shows, and to shop for specialty food items.

4


WHY WE LOVE LIVING HERE

When asked what they love about living in Lunenburg County, most people in the survey and interviews

pointed to nature, openness and scenery or friendly people. Much of what people like is tied up in

a sense of what makes rural or small-town life different: a slower pace of life, safety, peace and

quiet, friendliness, and proximity to nature. The “friendliness” of Lunenburg County is actually

something more akin to what sociologists call social capital.

SOCIAL CAPITAL

Social capital refers to the connections

between and among people, the networks

linking people, their skills, resources, and

talents together, and that facilitate

collaboration and coordination.

“When I walk around our community, I know

everybody for various reasons. Whether I actually

stop to talk to them or not is a different factor…

maybe it’s just a hi, but you know who they are.”

“My actions that I take affect others”

While this characterization of life in Lunenburg County probably doesn’t ring true for everyone—after all,

every society has insiders and outsiders, inequalities and marginalization—it was a common theme

across most interviews. Nevertheless, the connections that do exist are apparent to residents and are

what makes collective action and community change possible.

5


BUSINESS to BUSINESS

Overall, the perception is that businesses within the county sometimes, but do not always, work

together. Most interviewees felt that more could and should be done to collaborate.

“There's no shortage of good ideas. There's the capacity to

implement them […] Someone has to take the baton to

actually make some of those things happen. And it's not

like, you know, it's not an hour job. It's like, weeks,

months, years’ worth of work that you have ahead of you.

[And] having an expectation of a volunteer, who has the

skill set to actually make some of those things happen is

non-existent, like you have to pay people well with the skill

sets to make some of those things happen. But like, who's

gonna pay for that?” It is not completely up to businesses

to “figure it out.”

One resident recalled that

when the Lunenburg County

Lifestyle Centre was built,

they released a request for

proposals for office

furnishings, and rather than

collaborate to make a bid,

local suppliers who could not

supply 100% of the request

simply did not make a

proposal.

“No matter where

somebody sets up a

business or tries to grow

something, it should be

good for all of us.”

“There's a bit of an attitude that if you create a

business, too much like another that already

exists, that now you’re competition and now

you're going to really hurt each other. And that's

frankly just not the case.”

“I think that businesses don't necessarily see opportunities

of collaboration as opportunities for growth. They see

similar businesses as a competitor… So they see their likebusinesses

as competitors, as opposed to a network where

they could collaborate, where they could share, you know,

best practices or, you know, learn from one another to

figure out how not to do something that would be

detrimental to their business.”

ONE KEY TAKEAWAY

There should be a third party facilitating new collaborative efforts.

6


WHAT RESIDENTS WANT

1.

People want to see the cultural diversity of our communities increase.

We want to see new immigrants from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, and we want them

to feel comfortable and welcome. This goes hand-in-hand with a desire for increased access to

certain cultural and ethnic foods in the county.

“One of the things that I would like to

see change is increased diversity. And

one could argue that by holding onto

nostalgia [for the county’s ‘character’]

that kind of contradicts the diversity

but I personally don't think it does. I

think diversity increases opportunity

for the marketplace, it creates social

and economic opportunity”

2.

People want to see the county grow

without losing what makes it special.

We see the best avenues for growth as

being through investment in a diversity of

local businesses, institutions and

infrastructure, and growth in housing

(including affordable housing) that is in

keeping with the character and norms of the

County.

3.

People want to see investment in

things that improve quality of life for

residents, not just tourists, year-round.

“Lunenburg County needs to evolve beyond being just

a 4-6 month tourist destination. Keep things open in

the winter and build community. Focus on keeping

young people in the area. Provide year-round

recreational opportunities for all ages… [We need]

more diversity in food and shopping options, more

respect and representation for Black Nova Scotian and

Indigenous communities in the area. More diverse

cultural activities in general. Live music including jazz.

More affordable recreational activities. Keep the bike

shops open. I keep going to rent a bike when friends

and family come to town and the shops are always

closed. An independent cinema -- so many films shot in

Lunenburg there should be a stronger theatre presence

here. Somewhere for youth and younger generations to

hang out that is not religious or sports-related. And

most certainly there must be reliable and affordable

public transit and rent.

[We have to] avoid seeing ourselves as just for

tourists and not communities full of talent.”

7


WHAT SECTORS SHOULD GROW?

Other

Personal services (barbers, aestheticians)

Fisheries

Electronic retail

Food processing

Real Estate and Property Development

Major appliances or furniture retail

Alternative health services (massage, acupuncture,…

Tourism

Manufacturing

Hospitality (restaurants, hotels, inns)

Arts and culture (e.g. performing arts)

Clothing retail

Skilled trades (electrician, plumbers, etc.)

Agriculture

Green energy and clean technology (solar, wind, etc.)

Health Care

0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140

Unsurprisingly, health care is the area where residents most want to see growth.

Health, however, is a product not only of doctors and hospitals, but also as something improved by

access to recreation and attention to socio-economic equality. Health care is followed closely

by green and clean energy and technology. Two staples follow close behind: agriculture and

skilled trades, followed by clothing retail and arts and culture. Alternative health services

are further down the list, but if they are combined with more general health care, the health services

category becomes unquestionably the dominant priority.

CONCLUSION

In the survey and interviews, there is a clear indication of where Lunenburg County residents want to

see their communities go: toward diversity and growth, while maintaining their unique character and

ways of life, and prioritizing investments in year-round amenities that will improve the quality of life

for residents, not just tourists. To get there, residents believe the County’s communities and

businesses need to work together and coordinate growth and development in ways that benefit as

many residents as possible. In some cases, this might mean consolidation of services, but in many—

possibly more—it means situating a broad range of goods and services in communities to improve

access.

There is an undeniable emphasis on health care, and when combined with other emergent themes

such as outdoor recreation and nature, there is an interesting opportunity to imagine what a

community invested in its own holistic health looks like. What is certain is that there is a core group

of residents—bigger than those captured by this study—who care about the future of the county and

are (and have been) willing to work with others to shepherd it. But they do need some coordination

and support, as many are busy with their own livelihoods and find it difficult to change the minds of

people who mistake collaboration for competition.

There is a need for a third party to help channel the energies and desires expressed in this survey

and interviews toward the bright future Lunenburg Country residents believe is possible.

8


SNAPSHOT OF LUNENBURG COUNTY

TOTAL POPULATION

On July 1, 2021, the population of

Lunenburg County was 48,599, which

represented 5.0% of the provincial total

(969,380). After years of stagnation, the

population has recently started to

increase. This stems from new people

moving to the area, rather than being

born in the County.

49000

48500

48000

47500

47000

46500

46000

1991 1996 2001 2006 2011 2016 2021

MIGRATION AND COMPONENTS OF POPULATION

Between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 Lunenburg County had a net gain of 461 people.

Interprovincial migration to Lunenburg County was significantly higher than to any other census

division in Nova Scotia except Halifax.

288 births

582 deaths

53 people from other countries

93 people from other parts of Nova Scotia

609 people from other parts of Canada

461 net growth in population

POPULATION BY CENSUS DIVISION 2021 POPULATION % CHANGE SINCE 2016

Municipality of the District of Lunenburg 25545 +2.7

Town of Bridgewater 8790 +3.0

Town of Lunenburg 2396 +5.9

Town of Mahone Bay 1064 +2.7

Municipality of Chester 10693 +3.7

Gold River Reserve 81 -14.7

Pennal Reserve (in New Russell) 30 +11.1

9


CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS: 30-YEAR TREND

The significant declines in population in the three younger age groups (0-34 years) observed from

1991 to 2011 are levelling off, suggesting that more young people are now choosing to stay in or

move to Lunenburg County. The core workforce in the 35-54 year age group peaked in 2001 and is

now declining in number (by 3,224 people, or 22.6% between 2001 and 2021), while population in

the three oldest age groups (55+) continues to grow, with the largest increase in the 65-74 year age

group (an increase of 2,855 people, or 51% from 2011 to 2021).

CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS

1991, 2001, 2011 and 2021

30% OR 10,600 people in total

95% OR 11,535 people in total

< 5 yrs 5-19 YRS 20-34 YRS 35-54 YRS 55-64 YRS 65-74 YRS 75+ YRS

1991 2001 2011 2021

MEDIAN AGE

INCREASE IN MEDIAN AGE 2011 to 2021

In 2021, the median age in Lunenburg Canada

County was 54, compared to 45 provincially

NS

and 41.1 nationally. In the past 10 years,

the County’s median age has increased by 5 Lun Co

years, compared to 1.3 years provincially

and 0.5 nationally. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60

2011 2021

10


LABOUR FORCE

WHERE DO WE WORK?

In 2016, 91% of the working

population both lived and

worked in Lunenburg County.

7% commuted to work in

Halifax County and 2%

commuted to work in Queens

County.

515 people came from Halifax

County to work in Lunenburg

County and 600 people

commuted from Queens

County.

18600

1530

515

415

600

Commute to Halifax CD

Commute from Halifax CD

Commute to Queens CD

Commute from Queens CD

HOW MANY OF US WORK?

In 2021, 25,700 residents reported at least some

employment income. This represents 91% of the

15 to 64 year-old population, but only 53% of

our total population. 12% of our population is

less than 15 years old (pre-working age), 4% are

“students” aged 15 to 19, and 30% of our

population is in the traditional retirement years of

65 or older. Only 54% of our population falls in

the 20 to 64 year age group typical of a core

workforce.

2021 Available Workforce

0-19 YRS 20-64 YRS 65+ YRS

11


HOW DO WE COMPARE?

In May 2016* the employment rate for the

core-age workforce (25 to 54 years of age)

in the Lunenburg Census Division was

equivalent to the rate for Nova Scotia as a

whole, at just under 80%.

nking of census subdivisions in the Lunenburg Census Division

by employment rate for the core-age workforce

(25 to 54 years of age), May 2016

Ranking of Nova Scotia census divisions by employment rate

for the core-age workforce (25 to 54 years of age), May 2016

Nova Scotia

Halifax

Hants

unenburg Census

Division

wn of Bridgewater

unicipal District of

Lunenburg

unicipal District of

Chester

own of Lunenburg

Gold River 21 First

Nation

Average % Employed Lun County

Town of Bridgewater

Municipal District of Lunenburg

Municipal District of Chester

Town of Lunenburg

Gold River

First Nation

Yarmouth

Lunenburg

Colchester

Kings

Antigonish

Pictou

Shelburne

Cumberland

Digby

Annapolis

Richmond

Inverness

Queens

Guysborough

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90

Percent of the population, 25 to 54 years of age,

that was employed in May, 2016

Within the County, though, there is

disparity.

ce: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population, Table 98-400-2016283.

Chart by

RayD.Bollman@sasktel.net

*Employment data from the 2021 census

will not be released until November 2022

Cape Breton

Victoria

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90

Percent of the population, 25 to 54 years of age,

that was employed in May, 2016

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population, Table 98-400-2016283.

Median Household Income After Taxes 2020

Chart by

RayD.Bollman@sasktel.net

DIGBY

GUYSBOROUGH

ANNAPOLIS

QUEENS

CUMBERLAND

RICHMOND

CAPE BRETON

YARMOUTH

SHELBURNE

PICTOU

LUNENBURG

COLCHESTER

INVERNESS

VICTORIA

KINGS

ANTIGONISH

HALIFAX

$50,400

$50,800

$51,600

$52,000

$52,800

$54,800

$55,600

$55,600

$56,000

$57,200

$58,000

$58,400

$59,200

$60,000

$60,000

$62,400

$69,500

$- $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 $40,000 $50,000 $60,000 $70,000 $80,000

12


HOW CAN YOU TURN THIS REPORT INTO ACTION?

ü START A BUSINESS or ADD CAPACITY TO YOUR CURRENT

BUSINESS to address some of these gaps.

ü JOIN THE BOARD OF THE LUNENBURG COUNTY COMMUNITY FUND

to guide the growth and development of LIFT's role in the future of

Lunenburg County, as well as bring other community initiatives to life. If

you are passionate about the success of the County as a whole, email

LunenburgCCFund@gmail.com

ü SHOP LOCALLY! We have all heard this many times, but shop less online,

shop less in Halifax, and support the businesses here in Lunenburg County.

ü SPEAK UP! If a local business does not have the item or the service or the

people-skills that you are hoping for, let them know. Most entrepreneurs

appreciate when people make those suggestions and will act on them if they

can.

13


WHAT IS LIFT ALL ABOUT?

LIFT supplies small loans and business coaching to people in Lunenburg

County who would like to start a small business or grow an existing business.

LIFT is not a bank, or a government program – we are a group of communityminded

people focused on social good, and on making Lunenburg County a

great place to live for everyone.

You may qualify if :

• you are a resident of Lunenburg County, or are planning to move here

• have a business idea or a growing business which might benefit our area

• need less than $10,000 to get underway

www.LiftLC.ca (902) 529-0016

14


This report is a signature product of the Lunenburg County Community Fund in partnership

with the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia and has been generously supported by local

residents and businesses. It is offered to all community members, free of charge, as we

believe this information must be readily accessible by all so that we can all be well informed.

Let this report assist and inspire us to bring about changes that will improve the quality of

our lives now and in the future.

Report prepared by Dr. Karen Foster, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures,

Dalhousie University | Interviews conducted by Graduate Assistant Emma Kay Sarty |

Funding provided by the Fulcher Foundation through the Community Foundation of Nova

Scotia | January 31st, 2022

This report and more are available at www.LiftLC.ca

and www.lunenburgcountycommunityfund.ca

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