MEDIA RELEASE – June 24, 2013: Ben Cowen-Dewar, co-founder of Cabot Links in Inverness, will be among the speakers addressing the Georgetown Conference in Prince Edward Island in October.

The Georgetown Conference, titled Rural Redefined, will bring 250 participants from across Atlantic Canada to the village of 675, a village facing many of the same challenges that threaten towns and villages and regions across rural Atlantic Canada.

“We chose Georgetown not because her problems are any greater or worse than others. We chose Georgetown because she is not unique. Her challenges are shared with many communities represented by members of Newspapers Atlantic, the patron sponsor of The Georgetown Conference,” organizers explain.

Cowen-Dewar has been asked to address part of the conference because Inverness has a story to tell, one in which its worst blemish, the slag-and-ash aftermath of its now defunct coal-mining history lined the dunes of its beautiful beach. It was a town searching for decades for an economic salvation while year after year the population declined, housing deteriorated, and hope clung to a thread growing thinner with each passing year.

As it moved into the new millennium, signs of change began to taking place. The Conservative government of John Hamm, lobbied hard by MLA Rodney MacDonald, took on a task that over provincial governments had been eluding for decades. The coal mine site was rehabilitated and turned into a green space.

The Inverness Development Association, which had been working hard for 15 years to find someone who could share its conviction and vision that the old mine site was ideal for a Scottish-style links golf course continued to look for investment. There were nibbles, but always, it seemed, the big one got away. Again.

Then a serendipitous meeting took place in Toronto by now Premier Rodney MacDonald and golf travel businessman Ben Cowan-Dewar who shared with the premier his hope to some day be able to develop a links golf course.

“Do I know a piece of land you should see,” MacDonald told then entrepreneur. Cowen-Dewar came to Inverness, saw a similar vision to that which the IDA had been trying to convince  golf investors. Cowen-Dewar’s commitment to his vision and the town itself was instantaneous. He and his wife, Allie, build a home here, and while he spent five years pursuing his vision, they also began building a family. They have two children.

Over the past year, Inverness’s economic fortunes have taken a profound turn for the better.

One reason organizers for the Georgetown Conference have invited Cowan-Dewar to address the Rural Redefined conference is because Inverness has a story to tell, the same story that economically troubled Georgetown itself and scores if not hundreds of other rural communities in Atlantic Canada hope some day to be able to tell; that they have found the economic, cultural and social means to debunk the myth that the rural towns and villages of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland are parts of this country whose best years are behind them.

“For those of us who live and work here the stereotype is nothing new: We are too old, too dependent on faltering traditional industries, too reliant on government, too parochial,” organizers remind us, but what the Rural Redefined conference hopes to achieve is a demonstration of the belief that what lies ahead for our rural towns and villages is their continued relevance as they share ideas and successes, hopes and pitfalls.

On Friday evening, June 28, PEI newspaper publisher Paul MacNeill, whose passion and compassion for rural communities and their future, will be in Inverness to talk about Georgetown and Rural Redefined.

In a recent newspaper column, MacNeill explains, “It started out as a simple idea 17 months ago: host a conference for rural Atlantic Canadians to come together to celebrate our successes and search for solutions to the issues we face. But it is fast becoming much, much more. Ordinary Atlantic Canadians are embracing the concept of Georgetown and are transferring its ideals into real world discussions and practical solutions for their hometowns.

“Communities are talking in a way rarely seen. It is happening in places like MacAdam, New Brunswick where 235 of 1,400 town residents showed up for a community brainstorming session. It is happening in Antigonish and Annapolis Royal. It’s happening in places like Saskatchewan and the Kootenay Region of British Columbia where local rural leaders see the potential of transferring the Georgetown model to their region.”

It will be happening in Inverness on June 28th, at 7:00 p.m. upstairs of the Oran office. If you are interested in learning more about this Atlantic-wide conference, it hopes, goals and rural focus, allow yourself an hour, and attend.