By Korie Marshall

When Michelin Tire came to North America, it opened its first plant in my home town. Actually, it is my home town because of that plant, and there is probably a good chance I’d have been a Cape Bretoner otherwise. My dad was working at the bank in Port Hawksbury, and moved to New Glasgow to work at Michelin.

Now, 40 years later, Michelin is again downsizing, despite provincial tax money having been thrown at it for years, and expanding in the US.

I wasn’t in the valley when the big mills closed, but the downsizing of Michelin is a vivid reminder to me that big companies are inherently boom-and-bust employers, and the real character and future of communities is in their small businesses and grass-roots projects.

Projects like improvements on 5 Mile hill, such as the access road, the Valemount Bike Park, and the Swift Creek trail; the Open Gate Garden in McBride; the trails through and around our communities that we build and invest in; the improvements we fight for to highways and bus service, internet and cell service, power reliability, and economic opportunities; these are all things that say a lot about the people who want to be here. Many of these things are attractive to tourists, investors, immigrants, but they are used, loved and built by locals.

The people who continue to run their businesses here and the ones with the guts to start new ones here are a big part of our character. The people we choose to support in our community, by spending our money locally, is a part of our character.

The discussions at council meetings and on social media and in the coffee shops are part of our character. The fact that many of our families have parents and children that work away but want to be here, and the fact that some stay here or come back even though it is difficult – those facts are part of our character.

I am all for looking for investments, bringing people and businesses to our communities, but it starts with us. Each choice we make today has potential to affect our future and our children’s future. I am open to a lot of options and possibilities, but I want to make sure I am comfortable with the risks of each decision. Most of the decisions are not mine to make, but I am still going to ask questions. Luckily for me, that is my job.