New man holding the reins

‘Hopefully, together we can make things work'

Staff ~ The Truro Daily News
Published on November 13, 2012
Roger MacCallum of North River is the new general manager at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition and Truro Raceway. HARRY SULLIVAN – TRURO DAILY NEWS

BIBLE HILL - A new general manager hired for the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition (NSPE) and Truro Raceway is generating hope for a reversal of fortunes at the facility.

"I guess that's an exciting change," said NSPE board chairman Joel Henderson, regarding the hiring of Roger MacCallum to the position. "Hopefully, this manager is going to be able to make strides once he gets a feel for the place."

MacCallum, 53, replaces the previous manager Andrew Kenny, who resigned earlier this year. Prior to his resignation, Kenny had been off the job for a period after burning one of his hands while camping in early August.

The new gm formerly worked at MacCallum's Produce in North River.

"He's bringing to the table his years of management experience at MacCallum's, which, unfortunately, is not so much on the marketing side, but it is on the people management skills and the infrastructure management. So that's really an important feature to us," Henderson said.

MacCallum, who started in his new position yesterday, said he is "looking forward" to learning about all aspects of the facility and in helping to manage the change required at the facility, although he knows there are daunting challenges ahead.

The NSPE Commission announced earlier this year that it has a debt load totaling approximately $1 million. While efforts are being made to manage that debt, a lack of revenue has not enabled the commission to make much headway in reducing the overall number.

And while MacCallum acknowledged that he does not have horseracing experience, per se, he said his strengths are in the management side of things and he believes that working in conjunction with existing staff, progress can be made in turning things around.

"I worked in a successful business for 34 years," he said of McCallum's Produce, which he began with his father during the late 1970s.

"I know there is a lot of knowledgeable people around here so I will work with them and hopefully together we can make things work."

Henderson said efforts have been made to try to find new revenue streams at the site, by renting out the Agridome at every opportunity, renting out available space as winter storage for boats and automobiles, etc., and it is working with its creditors to stay on top of the debt load.

And while Henderson realizes the facility really needs someone to concentrate fully on the marketing side of things, that option simply is not available at the moment.

"Our finances are such that we cannot afford both," he said. "So what we're hoping will result from Roger's appointment is that he will develop good infrastructure management, he'll learn the race side (because of existing staff) he can rely on to help him get abreast of how the racing side works."

And while there have been "no inroads," as yet on paying down the overhanging debt, "we're making a minimum monthly payment to the farm loan board now," Henderson said, "and we try to stay on top of our local creditors as well as we can."

The board has "some hard decisions" to make on how it plans to handle the debt., he said, including "... how hard we intend to push for help from our municipal partners and the provincial government."

And despite the fact that betting and race activities at Truro Raceway will be shutting down for the winter in about mid-December, Henderson believes it is important to have the manager's position filled now so that the facility will be able to hit the ground running when racing resumes.

"I don't think it's practical (to wait on hiring a manager)," he said. "I think it's key to have a quality manager ... and really this would be the time to get him on board. To try and get him on when things are starting to ramp up and get the training so he will be familiar with the property, familiar with the activities, I think that would be a mistake. I think this is probably the ideal time."