Nova Scotia communities looking to grow their economies needn’t look beyond Cape Breton to find a successful community-based investment fund that is providing venture capital to new companies.
New Dawn Enterprises Ltd. in Sydney operates one of the province’s biggest and best community development funds, attracting some $8.2 million in investment in the last 10 years. The oldest community development corporation in Canada, New Dawn was established in the 1970s to address the island’s looming economic problems in the steelmaking and coal mining sectors.
Highly respected in the community, it now employs 175 people, running residential and small options facilities, a vocational college, a large rental property operation, home health-care services and co-operates with other community organizations in a broad range of areas.
A Meals on Wheels initiative with Breton Ability Centre in Sydney serves more than 250 hot meals each week to residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
In 2004-05, New Dawn set up a development fund through the province’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) program, raising $450,000 to help bankroll its growing operations.
Today, the fund raises as much as three times that amount annually and is focused on helping local high-tech companies grow. In 2011-2012, a new fund, New Dawn Innovation Fund, was launched. It raised $1.47 million that year for Protocase, a Sydney firm that makes custom enclosures for electronics.
The fund, which raised $1.4 million last year, is now targeting firms beyond the startup phase that have export potential, like Advanced Glazings, Marcato Digital Solutions and MediaSpark, all of Sydney.
Much of New Dawn’s success rests with its dedicated, accomplished board of directors who accept no pay to develop and grow Cape Breton economically and socially.
Its 600 investors, most in CBRM, also deserve credit for having the vision to support a community-based venture. Investors qualify for provincial equity tax credits and can earn dividends from successful initiatives.
Indeed, president Rankin MacSween says one of New Dawn’s strengths is its integration with the community.
“The community has really supported this … and we’ve been able to find ways of putting this money to good use and supporting local entrepreneurs,” says Mr. MacSween.
The province’s CEDIF program, which has garnered attention well beyond the province’s borders, is “an incredible piece of innovation,” says Mr. MacSween.
It aims to get Nova Scotians investing in local community development rather than in U.S., Ontario or western-based mutual funds.
Both the provincial program and New Dawn are setting the bar high for other towns and municipalities that want to grow their economies, and are challenging Nova Scotia investors to fund development closer to home.
They’ve proven that when we pool our resources — personal, financial and social — to revitalize our communities, we all reap the benefits.
The Chronicle Herald, June 30, 2014