The Strait-Highlands Region’s economic development has been shaped largely by its natural resources and geographic locations. The economy was initially dominated by mining, fishing, forestry, and farming. Since the 1960s, manufacturing industries have grown in importance along with the Strait of Canso Superport. Most manufacturing jobs, such as fish processing and pulp and paper production, are closely tied to the province's natural resources.
The climate and geography in parts of the Strait-Highlands Region are suitable for growing a variety of crops. The Inverness County is the largest and most fertile agricultural area in the region and is suited to horticulture, livestock production, and livestock feeds. Livestock and livestock products generate a majority of farm income in Nova Scotia. Dairying is a large sector. The production of poultry, beef, and pork are also important. The most common field crop in the region is hay, which is not a market crop, but is used to support livestock. Grain crops are of only minor importance.
The farm gate in the Strait-Highlands Region is in the $12,000,000 range and employment is approximately 250 individuals.
Excellent fishing banks lie a few miles offshore, and fishers have long made a living from the sea. Among the Canadian provinces, Nova Scotia ranks second only to British Columbia in the value of its annual fish production. The most valuable species are shellfish – especially lobsters, scallops, and crabs. Other important species include haddock, herring, tuna, and pollock. In recent years dwindling cod stocks have nearly decimated the cod fishery – once a leading industry in the province. Since 1992, cod-fishing bans and strict quotas imposed by the federal government have caused hardship for many cod fishers throughout the Maritimes. Fish harvesting in this region amount to approximately $50,000,000 annually and employs 800 full time fishers.
Aquaculture (fish farming) is a growing industry in the Strait-Highlands Region. The provincial department of agriculture and fisheries encourages aquaculture development through training and financial assistance. Among the species raised are the Atlantic salmon, steelhead, blue mussels, scallops, rainbow trout, and oysters.
Forestry has been important to the economy of Nova Scotia since the early 18th century. In the 19th century, Nova Scotia’s forests provided timber for wooden ships and planking that was carried to British markets overseas. The development of the pulp and paper industries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries greatly added to the value of the regional forests.
Much of the forests are privately owned, and many can best be called farm woodlots. A large paper mill is found at Point Tupper; NewPage, which employs 550 directly and another 600 full time equivalents in their harvesting operations. The mill spends in excess of $240 million annually with estimates of $80,000,000 to $100,000 impacting of the Strait-Highland Region. There are several small sawmills in the region. The principal forestry products are pulpwood and sawn lumber.
Some woodlot owners, especially in northern areas produce maple syrup from the sugar maple.
Mining and Minerals
Mineral production in the region remains an important activity. Historically, the most valuable mineral product was coal. Mines in the region contain excellent coking-quality coal, which was long used to generate electricity and to produce iron and steel. However, much of the coal is expensive to extract, and in 2001 the last of Cape Breton’s once-numerous coal mines was forced to shut down.
Other valuable minerals found in the region are salt and gypsum. Nova Scotia leads all the other Canadian provinces in the production of gypsum, which occurs in outcroppings throughout the Strait-Highlands Region. Much of the region’s gypsum is exported to the United States via the Strait of Canso Superport.
The Strait-Highlands Region has deposits of barite, used primarily in oil well drilling. Sand and gravel, cement grade limestone, stone, and clay are some of the other minerals found in the region. Offshore deposits of petroleum and natural gas are mined near Sable Island.
Strait-Highlands Regional Development Agency (S-HRDA) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nova Scotia Minerals Resources Branch of Department of Natural Resources (NSDNR) to encourage mineral exploration and development. Over the past six years the S-HRDA and the NSDNR have collaborated on several projects, which have led to the development of mineral deposits in the region. NSDNR does mineral mapping and resource evaluation, and tracks ever-changing requirements for minerals in industry. The S-HRDA, as a development agency, uses the information to attract potential exploration and mineral development projects. The mineral sector in the region has an annual direct impact of $20,000,000 to the economy of the area, while directly employing 200 to 230 individuals.
The Service sector grew rapidly in the 20th century and today is the leading source of income and employment in the parts of the Strait-Highlands Region. Tourism, often included in the service sector has expenditure approaching $75,000,000 annually and employees in the range of 800 to 1,000 individuals on a seasonal basis.
Manufacturing is a leading economic activity in Nova Scotia. In 2002 manufacturing employed 11 percent of the province’s workers. Most manufacturing employment is based on the processing of local resources. The primary industries are food processing and pulp and paper production. Food-processing industries include the processing of fish and seafood. Main fish-processing plants are found in Chéticamp, Isle Madame, there are several other smaller fish plants in the region.
Other industries include the manufacture of construction products, petroleum products, and equipment. Historically, shipbuilding was important to the region’s economy and ship building still takes place in the region with finished vessels being exported to international markets.
Most of the labor force in Nova Scotia is employed in service industries, which include personal and business services, wholesale and retail trade, banking and finance, communications, government administration, and public utilities. Taken together, services accounted for 70 percent of Nova Scotia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001.
With an economy based largely on the extraction and processing of natural resources, Nova Scotia depends heavily on trade with other provinces and foreign countries to provide markets for its products. Fish and fish products and forest products and gas are leading exports. Most sales outside Canada are to the United States.
The Information Technology sector has grown in the region with the establishment of an EDS Contact Center, which employs 500 to 600 individuals. The routing of new high speed connectivity for Internet use into the rural area of the region is opening opportunity for other information, services and marketing opportunities.