LIFTing Lunenburg County
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Identifying opportunities for economic growth
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
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
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, 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
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
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
® 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.
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
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 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.
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 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.
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
“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.
WHAT RESIDENTS WANT
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”
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
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.”
WHAT SECTORS SHOULD GROW?
Personal services (barbers, aestheticians)
Real Estate and Property Development
Major appliances or furniture retail
Alternative health services (massage, acupuncture,…
Hospitality (restaurants, hotels, inns)
Arts and culture (e.g. performing arts)
Skilled trades (electrician, plumbers, etc.)
Green energy and clean technology (solar, wind, etc.)
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.
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
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.
SNAPSHOT OF LUNENBURG COUNTY
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.
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.
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
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).
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
INCREASE IN MEDIAN AGE 2011 to 2021
In 2021, the median age in Lunenburg Canada
County was 54, compared to 45 provincially
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
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
515 people came from Halifax
County to work in Lunenburg
County and 600 people
commuted from Queens
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
2021 Available Workforce
0-19 YRS 20-64 YRS 65+ YRS
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
wn of Bridgewater
unicipal District of
unicipal District of
own of Lunenburg
Gold River 21 First
Average % Employed Lun County
Town of Bridgewater
Municipal District of Lunenburg
Municipal District of Chester
Town of Lunenburg
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
ce: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population, Table 98-400-2016283.
*Employment data from the 2021 census
will not be released until November 2022
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
$- $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 $40,000 $50,000 $60,000 $70,000 $80,000
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
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
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
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