TRURO - For some, the line score on rural Atlantic Canada is already written.
Our communities are too old and reliant on failing traditional industries. Our youth are leaving for bigger paycheques in bigger centres. We are too dependent on government.
It is these generalizations that are driving organizers of a unique conference to be held Oct. 3 to 5, 2013. The Georgetown Conference, Rural Redefined, will focus on rural issues and opportunities in an environment free of government influence.
But Georgetown is not about criticizing government or failed programs. It is about identifying the issues, promoting solutions and engaging the people who can make change happen on a local level in communities throughout Atlantic Canada.
"We believe in our rural communities and rural people and we believe communities can be reinvigorated. Our best days lie ahead of us," says Inez Forbes, president of Newspapers Atlantic, lead sponsor of The Georgetown Conference. "It will take hard work, but we will get there."
The conference namesake is a town in Kings County, P.E.I., an idyllic community with a population of 675. Its story is not unique. The sawmill is closed. The shipyard sits idle. It is increasingly difficult to maintain municipal services. Yet the community has a spirit that defies its economic reality.
The Georgetown Conference is about harnessing the spirit that exists in every rural community and arming those local leaders - some who are elected but many who are not - with ideas that they can transfer to their own communities. It is about asking a simple but powerful question: What does our community need to thrive?
Newspapers Atlantic is spearheading the conference because its members collectively are the voice of rural Atlantic Canada. Newspapers Atlantic represents 70 community newspapers with a combined weekly circulation of more than 700,000.
An interactive website www.thegeorgetownconference.ca has been launched. It will feature updates on the agenda and promote businesses and ideas that are flourishing in our communities.
Over the coming months members of Newspapers Atlantic will undertake various initiatives aimed at identifying local ideas and solutions that can be brought forward to The Georgetown Conference.
We want to hear your ideas for reinventing rural Atlantic Canada. It's easy to get involved. Contact the Colchester Weekly News with your suggestions and join the discussion online or follow us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GeorgetownConference or Twitter, twitter.com/georgetown2013
"I'm so proud Newspapers Atlantic is taking the lead," says Richard Russell, publisher, TC Media Nova Scotia Media Group Inc., which includes the Colchester Weekly News and the Truro Daily News. "No other organization is better suited to champion the cause of reinvigorating rural communities.
"Our region has never seen anything on this scale before. The Georgetown Conference will be a dynamic must-attend event for anyone dedicated to rural communities."