Ten Profiles for Fusion’s 10th Year: #1 – Mayor Mike Savage
In a city like Halifax where the built heritage can be traced back hundreds of years and the history of people calling this area home goes back much further still, 10 years doesn’t seem like a very long time.
Yet, in many ways the Halifax of 2016 is very different than the Halifax that was in 2006.
As Fusion marks its tenth anniversary these profiles will be a space to connect with ten individuals who have been part of the organization’s and Halifax’s growth, and to get their thoughts on Fusion, it’s first 10 years, and what they see for the future.
Mike Savage was elected Mayor in 2012 and recently succeeded in his re-election bid this past fall. Before that he was the Member of Parliament for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour and has seen the changes to our region first hand. He has also spoken at a number of Fusion events, supporting the organization in its efforts.
“I feel the momentum and when I see the numbers that we’re keeping more young people here and I see the companies that are choosing Halifax as a place to be and I think it’s a validation of a lot of the messaging that Fusion has had,” says Savage.
Fusion’s Role in Halifax’s Civic Life
“I think we’re entering a good time for young people in Halifax and it’s a combination of events” Savage says, adding “I think you can see Fusion’s fingerprints on some of those”.
Thinking back to the beginning days of Fusion the Mayor says many of the early priorities for the organization have become main-stream. Whether it is a focus on building a vibrant centre and growth in the core, opportunities for young talent to say in Halifax and the surrounding area, or a focus on active transportation and protection of green spaces.
“A lot of these have come a long way,” says Savage.
“The biggest impact [Fusion] has had is the elevation of recognizing how important young talent is to any city,” says the Mayor who is overseeing Halifax’s current development boom and population growth.
Fusion’s Role in our Community’s Future
Milestones are an important time to look forward as well as back. The next ten years may bring more change to Fusion, which continues to grow its membership and spheres of influence.
Savage says the main focus of Fusion may change over the next ten years.
“I think the evolution of Fusion will be to become more and more community based and involved in other organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, like the United Way perhaps, like other non-for-profit that can share a common goal of building HRM.”
According to Halifax Partnership’s 2016 Halifax Index the second largest age group to see population gains in the city was 25-39-year-olds, and overall Halifax saw a population increase of 1%, “due to reduced interprovincial outmigration and increased international immigration”, says the report.
“I think that when Fusion started there was a need for people to highlight the importance of younger talent,” says Savage. “I don’t think that need is as great now.”
Challenges and Opportunities for the Next 10 Years
Growth also means change and that can be challenging for any group or community. Mayor Savage agrees and says for both Fusion and Halifax the next 10 years will be a time where important choices get made.
“The challenge for Halifax will be what kind of growth do we want? What is it going to do? As you grow you change and I think Halifax is changing,” says Savage.
“So there is this growth that’s happening and we need to try to make sure that it’s growth that’s sustainable in every sense. That we’re managing to maintain the heritage assets that make Halifax special as well. But we need growth, you can’t have a city without growth, I think that cities that slow down, they just don’t prosper.”
He says there are a number of challenging issues including poverty, housing, food security, and health, that will have to be addressed.
“They’re all big issues and those are things I think that interest people in Fusion and I would encourage them to be involved in those types of things as well as on the business front.”
“I think Fusion’s strength is in its ambition,” says Savage. For the organization’s next ten years the Mayor says the most important thing will be “to identify what the next steps are.”
Advice for the Young People of Halifax
Every year thousands of young people come to Halifax as students and looking to start their careers. The Mayor says he tells people, “we’re proud of the fact that we have that Maritime sense of hospitality and culture and history but our value proposition has been changing.”
“We are the most affordable major city [in Canada]… and you combine that with the talent that exists here, the opportunity to open and build a business. I really believe that from a talent, location, and cost point of view we’re the best deal in the country.”
While Halifax will continue to face challenges and people will still choose to leave Nova Scotia for opportunities else where, for the Mayor, the changes taking places are changes in the right direction.
“I guess what I would say is that, my daughter is 20-years-old, my son is 17, and I feel better about their opportunities to stay here, if they chose to, than I would have 10 years ago, and I consider that progress.”