Things looking good in city, speakers say

Conference Billions of dollars in projects and Saint John known as marquee port

SAINT JOHN - Surrounded by water and full of historic architecture, Saint John has much of what a lot of cities are trying to recreate in terms of heart and authenticity and, according to speakers at an idea exchange this week, things are going to get even better.

                                           

                                                   Steve Carson of Enterprise Saint John

Even though a proposed second oil refinery has been shelved, there is still more than $20-billion worth of energy and advanced manufacturing projects that have been recently completed, launched or ongoing, Enterprise Saint John CEO Steve Carson told a group of about 20 people attending the sessions sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centres, Atlantic Provinces.

Add to the projects the willingness of government, community and the private sector to work together and "what we have is very special," Carson said.

Along with where the city stands in terms of energy and manufacturing, strengths lie in the development of information and communications technology, health services and tourism, he said.

In addition, more than one million square feet in new retail has been added in the past eight years and there is $180 million in current and planned retail projects on the books.

In addition, there is the city's booming cruise ship business.

"We are now a marquee port," says Cruise Saint John chairwoman Betty MacMillan.

"Saint John is a very special place.

"I'll be very surprised if we don't reach 200,000 (passengers) by next year."

In 2005, Saint John didn't have half the cruise traffic that Halifax was getting but, last year, Saint John welcomed 183,000 cruise ship visitors, compared to 228,000 in Halifax.

Also last year, more than $12 million was spent in the region by cruise ship passengers and crew and, in 2007, more than 7,200 tourists who first visited Saint John on a cruise ship made a return visit, staying in 4,400 hotel rooms and spending $1.3 million, MacMillan said.

The cruise ship industry is even having an impact on local charity, she said, with passengers encouraged to drop their left over Canadian change into a box for United Way.

Next month, Saint John welcomes 27 cruise ships. Some days, MacMillan said, will be triple-ship days.

The International Council of Shopping Centres sessions wrap up today.

Source: Telegraph Journal Published Thursday August 13th, 2009