Neville Gilfoy was just 12 years old when he first considered ideas to make Atlantic Canada more prosperous.
Today, Gilfoy is the 55-year-old president and publisher of Progress magazine — Atlantic Canada’s leading business magazine with more than 100,000 readers monthly — and he’s confident the region can create ties with eastern Quebec, the northern New England States and upstate New York to form an economic powerhouse known as Atlantica.
Gilfoy brought the message of his 43-year-old dream and the vision of Atlantica to about 100 members of the Moncton Rotary Club yesterday. He told the business group the time for “sitting on our thumbs” is over and it’s time to open that economic powerhouse to the world before someone else does.
In an interview after his speech, the former president of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce said business leaders must show the way in order for Atlantica to work.
“People have to realize everything we need to succeed is already in place,” Gilfoy said. “We don’t have to wait for the federal government of Canada to authorize it or the federal government of the United States to say it’s OK.
“It’s up to the entrepreneurs we already have here. They’ve got to make it happen.”
And, he continued, there are signs that business leaders are going to “make it happen.”
An example is a proposed four-lane highway that will be constructed between Calais, Me. and Sherbrooke, Que. That highway will reduce trucking time between Quebec, the United States, the ports of Halifax and Saint John and all points in between, he said.
Gilfoy predicted the highway will be built within five years.
The opening of trade in the region known as Atlantica will be a boon, he said.
Moncton, he told the Rotarians, is poised to be a key player in the development of Atlantica because it is in the middle of the region. Distributed, manufactured and stored goods all have to go through Moncton on their way to other markets, he explained.
Gilfoy admitted there are some opponents to the concept. He said they are scared Atlantica would mean the region would become more “Americanized.”
The opposite is true, he argued. It’s more likely the northern states would become “more like us.”
“We’ve always been more open-minded to new ideas and that’s all this is — being open to a new way of doing business. We want to better position ourselves in the world.
“Trading between Bangor and Halifax should be as easy as doing business between Moncton and Riverview.”
Gilfoy’s message appeared to strike a chord. Several members of the audience met him after his address, shook his hand and told him they agreed with every word spoken.
Gilfoy says the idea of Atlantica is gaining momentum and he predicts it isn’t likely to slow down any time soon.