Welcome To
Acadia Broadcasting NewsThe Latest and Greatest ContentYour Trusted Local Source


Left to right: Jillian MacKinnon, acting co-CEO, Envision Saint John; MP Wayne Long; Abigail Smith, young entrepreneur and owner of Haven Music Hall; and Heather Libby, acting co-CEO, Envision Saint John. Image: Submitted

Feds give $660K for economic development initiatives in Saint John

By Scott Pettigrew Jun 28, 2023 | 5:00 AM

More than half a million dollars from the federal government will help lure more tourists to the Saint John region and give young entrepreneurs an early head start.

The feds announced $660,000 on Tuesday for two economic development projects. The funding will go to Envision Saint John (ESJ) by way of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The first chunk of funding is $500,000 which will be handed out in the form of seed capital loans to startups and small businesses in the Saint John Region. Those loans will come through the Impact Loans Investment Fund, which has for years been a key vehicle for the government to fund entrepreneurs in the early stages of their businesses.

The program hands out loans of up to $25,000 to young entrepreneurs aged 18 to 39. It also connects loan recipients to networking and coaching.

Heather Libby is an acting co-CEO at Envision Saint John. She says extra money for EJS’s loan program will help the city’s startup ecosystem as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What’s exciting is we’ve got this injection of additional funds in recognition that the entrepreneurial spirit here is on the move,” she said at a news conference announcing the funding.

Libby said nine loans were approved through the program last year and the goal is to “absolutely increase the number of people we can support” in 2023.

Abagail Smith is an Impact Loan recipient. She’s one of the minds behind the soon-to-open Haven Music Hall in Saint John. She told reporters the music venue would not have happened without an Impact Loan.

“It was definitely a driving force in creating the business plan and structure, just knowing this funding was available,” she said. “Between the actual funding and just the confidence it gave us, I don’t think we could have done it. It made us feel like Saint John wants Haven to exist.”

Along with money for the Impact Loans Investment Fund, ACOA also gave $160,000 to ESJ to bolster its tourism campaign. ESJ put that money to use last year when it expanded its tourism marketing camping to more heavily target visitors from Ontario.

ESJ’s co-acting CEO Jillian MacKinnon that enticing visitors to Saint John was incredibly important in 2022 because the world began to open up and the city was once again competing on a global scale.

“If we really wanted to accelerate our tourism recovery we needed to be back in some bigger markets,” she said.

Thanks in part to the federal money, ESJ added a “significant Ontario presence” to its 2022 campaign. As a result, the city saw a 112 per cent increase in overnight stays from Ontario visitors and a 12.8 per cent bump in overnight stays from the Maritimes.

MacKinnon said the organization hopes to build upon that success this year and bring even more visitors to the city.

More information about Envision Saint John is available here. More about ACOA is available here.

Trevor Nichols is the editor of Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


Leave a Reply