Strengthening a relationship is behind a recent initiative by the towns of Gander and Lewisporte to help each other.
In recent weeks, the two central Newfoundland municipalities held a preliminary meeting in hopes of highlighting common areas where they can combine efforts and assist each other.
In particular, officials with both towns pointed to the tourism industry, along with opportunities in the oil and gas sector, that may serve as mutually beneficial areas.
It was a meeting originally scheduled before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the province. As easements around the coronavirus started to open things up, a meeting was scheduled for Sept. 15.
It followed informal talks between the towns about areas where they have a mutual interest and may be able to help each other.
The meeting was an initial step toward a working relationship.
“The Town of Lewisporte has certain assets and attributes, and the Town of Gander has certain assets and attributes, and if we acknowledge that we are really one and the same when it comes to the big picture, then we can work together collaboratively and we can have greater success,” said Gander Mayor Percy Farwell.
The two towns are both defined, in a way, by a different kind of port. Gander has the Gander International Airport and Lewisporte has its deep sea port.
In recent years, Lewisporte has been actively trying to enter the oil and gas sector, and it is thought a working relationship might be able to work for both parties in that area.
“We have the port and they have the airport. We can help each other out,” said Lewisporte Mayor Betty Clarke. “I agree with it.”
When it comes to tourism, the obvious connection is the work both towns, and a multitude of others, did in the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Both towns were integral in helping stranded passengers by giving them shelter, food and, in some cases, the clothes off their backs.
Clarke felt with the 20th anniversary of 9-11 coming up next year, it would make sense for Gander and Lewisporte, along with places like Appleton, Glenwood, Norris Arm and Dover, to work together to commemorate the day.
“We’re all together here,” she said. “Why not get us all together to do something as a regional group.”
Farwell says talks like the ones the town is having with a neighbour are crucial, and it can be better for the region to have those conversations.
It allows for a better understanding of the priorities and goals for each area and how they may be able to help each other reach those goals, he said.
“It’s of vital importance to the prosperity of the region,” said Farwell.
For both towns, the thought of having a stronger working relationship in the future, in the oil and gas or tourism sectors or otherwise, makes sense.
“When it comes to resources like that, we have to work together in order to get the economy up and running again,” said Clarke.
Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice