(FOUNDER, MY HALIFAX EXPERIENCE)
By now you’ve looked at the cover of this issue and might think “Oh no, not another Top [whatever-number] Award!
I can’t blame you. There are a lot of them out there. But ours is different.
This isn’t a business award. Most of the local awards you’re familiar with are business focused. They highlight the success and leadership of entrepreneurs based on such criteria as business growth, profits, export volume, new hires, mentoring, etc. These can all be expressed in nice solid numbers, making it relatively easy to compare and contrast, evaluate and rank, producing the winners we see smiling on those magazine covers.
Those awards are important in their own way; they help us recognize the important role business plays in driving our economy and providing employment. But that’s not what we wanted to do. Instead of focusing on business or economic matters, we created our sister brand, My East Coast Experience, to search the Maritimes for the same stories we tell in each issue of our magazine. Who are the people who have made a conscious choice to build new lives here in our region and while doing so have given back to their communities? Who are the people who have done that, but not gotten the recognition they deserve? That was our start.
We opened the nomination process to the community at large, meaning anyone could nominate someone they believed worthy of recognition.
This attracted a wide spectrum of possible honorees: business people, educators, politicians, students, activists, etc. It was a diverse group of nominees from throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. It wasn’t easy to judge.
Without exception, our Top 25 all have one important thing in common. They have all overcome their own personal challenges to build their lives in this part of the world above all others, and enriched many lives in doing so. This is why they deserve recognition.
I don’t mind admitting this program was a bit of a stretch for us. Up to now we’ve built the magazine and its complementary online platform on a largely city-wide scale. This required the much larger scope of My East Coast Experience. It required more of a network, both internally and externally, to keep everything organized, spread the word, and help ensure we achieved our goal. I want to offer a huge thanks to everyone who participated and made this a success. Special thanks to Renée Horton, who kept me and the program on track, and to our judges, who had the unenviable task of cutting our list of deserving candidates down to the final 25.
All this, and we’re still only getting started. This is only the second year for My Halifax Experience and we still have so much to do. Plans to bring our stories to televisions across the region via My East Coast Experience continue to move forward, and our second annual bursary program for international students is already gathering applicants.
The need for a place to share and celebrate immigrants’ stories has never been greater. In 2016, 8,000 newcomers made Halifax home and all but 1,000 of those were immigrants. As birth rates decline and our population continues to age, we will need to rely on immigration more and more to fill holes in our workforce, to take over family businesses so they can carry into the next generation, and to continue the growth of our region on every front. My Halifax Experience and My East Coast Experience have roles to play in fostering and assisting such immigration. Stay tuned and you’ll have a front row seat to the future.