STANLEY BRIDGE, P.E.I. — While he admits it often feels like he is swimming against the tide, Brent Samson remains as convinced as ever Atlantica is a concept whose time has come.
The longtime business executive has served as vice-president Atlantica for the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce for the past year. He has been meeting government and business leaders in the area that falls under the Atlantica designation — the four Atlantic provinces, southern Quebec, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York.
“I think more and more people can see the benefits of working together,” Mr. Samson said in an interview at the annual meeting of the regional chamber held over the weekend here in Stanley Bridge.
He said one of the major challenges to the idea has been increased border security in the wake of the 9-11 attacks in 2001. However, he is starting to sense some movement on both sides of the border to establish a system that keeps the border secure, while at the same time allows for a free flow of commerce.
“In an era of just-in-time delivery, even being held up for a few hours is a major cost,” he said.
It’s a frustration Brian Thompson understands all too well. He is the president of Atlantic Turbines, an aircraft engine repair company based in Summerside, P.E.I. The firm has over 40 per cent of its clients south of the border.
In an increasingly competitive business, Mr. Thompson told the conference his firm prides itself on having one of the fastest turnaround times.
However, he said it is now not uncommon to have shipments tied up for close to two days since aircraft engines are classified as dangerous goods. “It has become one of the major challenges to our business.”
But this has not stopped the firm from expanding south of the border. In fact, it has entered into a partnership with a Texas company to win a contract servicing small aircraft for the U.S. government.
Mr. Thompson said having an American partner has been a major boost, since the American government has a policy of using U.S. companies where possible in its bidding process.
Publisher Neville Gilfoy of Progress magazine told the conference the proposed boundaries of Atlantica were chosen because they represent areas in both countries that have traditionally been disadvantaged.
However, he said, Atlantica is, in fact, geographically well positioned when it comes to trading both in North America and Europe.
“It’s a very simple concept; it’s actually more a state of mind,” Mr. Gilfoy told the 90 delegates at the conference. “The borders might be important to some people but they shouldn’t mean much to us as business people. We have the capacity to make all of this region prosperous, safe and secure.”