Charlottetown is the largest city on Prince Edward Island (PEI) and boasts a vibrant and growing economy. Despite having a population of roughly 40,000, which is relatively small compared to other Canadian hubs, this city is still able to pack a punch.
PEI is Canada’s smallest province in size, and agriculture and fisheries are still the backbone of the economy. The region provides 25% of Canada’s potato import. PEI also produces 70% of Canada’s entire production of mussels each year. Growers raise the shellfish in about 11,000 acres of shallow bays and inlets, a process refined over 800 years.
The lobster fishery is an integral sector of PEI’s primary industries, annually contributing hundreds of millions to the island economy. The industry employs as many as 8,500 people at peak production. The seafood industry as a whole has an economic contribution of $938 million to the island’s economy and a further $262 million in other provinces for a combined economic impact of $1.2 billion, according to a study by Ernst and Young.
The public sector – provincial, federal, and municipal levels of government – is also a major employer along with the healthcare sector.
But that’s only part of the picture. The Advanced Marine Technology sector is growing on PEI, employing 200 people and generating over $80m in export sales. In less than five years, PEI has grown its advanced marine technology sector with a focus on shipbuilding and repair, energy, oil and gas, and workboat sub-sectors. While cost is part of the attraction – wage rates are lower than North American averages – there is also the appeal of a steady stream of quality candidates from Holland College and the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI).
Success stories abound; Aspin Kemp and Associates were attracted to PEI in 2007 with six staff and now employ more than 100. The company specialises in engineering solutions within the marine industry having developed the world’s first hybrid tugboat propulsion system. They also developed and designed a critical power supply backup system for use in drill rigs and drill ships which reduced power outages on drill rigs from two minutes – which could lead to millions of dollars of potential damage – to 39 seconds.
In 2005 Kevan Merson visited PEI and fell in love with the province. He set up MarineNav Ltd, to design and manufacture marine grade computers, marine displays, and underwater remotely operated vehicles. “Since then we’ve supplied thousands of units to navies and coast guards around the world, as well as numerous commercial and scientific research vessels,” he says. The company has a long-standing commitment to the local fishing fleets and the luxury yacht segment. New to the product range is a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). MarineNav now has a team of 18 engineers, designers, and technicians with decades of experience in information technology and manufacturing industries, leading MarineNav product innovation. The company’s slogan is ‘Built North Atlantic Tough. Trusted Everywhere.’ and the location allows for product testing at the local pool, on the wharf or at sea.
The Prince Edward Island Convention Centre adjoins Delta Prince Edward; the two combined offer over 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Confederation Ballroom boasts 24,000 sq. ft. of space, divisible into six separate rooms and offering floor-to-ceiling windows with a water view. All the meeting rooms within the complex are named after the 23 Fathers of Confederation who attended the initial Charlottetown Conference to discuss the creation of Canada. An added feature is the outdoor patio overlooking the scenic waterfront, able to accommodate up to 600 delegates for a reception. And to support the burgeoning meetings sector the Tourism PEI Hosting Grant offers funding to non-profit organisations wanting to host a meeting or convention with ‘off-Island’ participants.
The subsidy can be used for receptions or banquets and is available during the shoulder season, anytime other than July and August.
Much of the appeal of Charlottetown and PEI is the beautiful, rugged scenery, along with the space and the oceans. But remote does not have to mean ‘isolated;’ There are direct flights from major hubs across Canada and access points from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and even Îles de la Madeleine. The Charlottetown Airport is just 8kms from the PEI Convention Centre and the historic Downtown Charlottetown. From May to September there are 75-minute ferry crossings from Caribou, Nova Scotia and Wood Islands, whilst CTMA Ferry provides regular ferry service between Souris, Prince Edward Island and the Îles de la Magdalen. However, since 1997 The Confederation Bridge, a 13-km engineering phenomenon, provides a swift but dramatic way to arrive or depart the Island. It’s arrival has increased tourism to around a million visitors a year. And you only pay a toll fee when you leave – assuming you want to.