Another field of broken dreams?

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Added: Mon, 02/25/2019 - 10:16pm
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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor

Every year, Canadian Press conducts a survey of newsrooms across the country in order to determine the most compelling story of the year. In 2018, the deadly Humbolt bus crash won first place, followed by the legalization of marijuana; no other stories affected Canadians more.
If the Pontiac were to name its own Story of the Year, without a doubt, LiveWell's proposed activities in Litchfield's Industrial Park would be awarded a top spot.
From the business' initial promise to employ up to 500 people in their greenhouses and Global Innovation Centre, the official acquisition of 450 acres of land in April 2018, followed by news of stalled operations last fall, a legal mortgage and unpaid contractors announced around Christmas, and more recently, the cancellation of a $100,000 MRC grant, this is a saga everyone is talking about and following with watchful eyes.
The degree of local attentiveness to the issue is understandable, given the region's history with large industries and the Pontiac Industrial Park, where promises and dreams of hundreds of jobs and a boosted economy have been shattered time and again, replaced with swallowed grants, vacant sites, huge messes, and the disappearance of any movable assets. We've been fooled too many times before, so large businesses looking to establish themselves in the Pontiac have the added task of gaining the trust of the local community.
The best way to do this is to operate openly, honestly and transparently. Transparency goes hand in hand with trust; you can't have one without the other. While LiveWell's communication with media was good at the onset, in recent months, it has been replaced by either generic email statements about the company's continued commitment or absolute silence.
It appears even the MRC's Council of Mayors is having difficulty getting the company to attend one of their closed Plenary meetings to explain their future plans.
Ironically, silence is sometimes a statement in itself; it can imply guilt, wrongdoing or that there's something to hide, whether it's the case or not, and creates a bad perception. If there's nothing wrong, why the avoidance? If plans have changed slightly but are still moving forward, why aren't we hearing about the new direction?
There are also valid reasons for keeping some things secret in the business world, but some meaningful dialogue is needed, even if it opens the door to criticism. Secrets and lack of transparency break trust and sever relationships. Minimally, the region's elected officials should be informed of what's going on.
If LiveWell is still committed to setting up shop in the Pontiac, the support of the local region is very important; their current approach isn't helping obtain this goal. Silence or a lack of substantial input allows the public to formulate their own conclusions or story lines. As it stands, if past experiences are all that's available to help fill in the blanks, things are not looking promising for this portion of the Industrial Park.