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Invest in Nova Scotia Wine

Colby Clarke, Valley whiz kid, and the Wine Association of Nova Scotia main grape pickers and stompers.

2009 might be a great year for Colby Clarke. The 27 year-old Development officer for the Kings Community Economic Development Agency is the main coordinating brain behind a new marketing package aimed at increasing investment in the local wine industry. I spoke to him a week ago at the launch of this program at Bear Restaurant.

Clarke is a small cog in a big machine. One of four Development Officers at KCEDA, which is one of 13 not for profit development authorities in the province, which funded by three levels of government: ACOA, NS Economic & Rural Development & municipal governments. Next to nobody had heard of him before he started mixing it up with the wine set last year; kinda like Nova Scotia's profile in the world of wine. But, with some sticktuitiveness and organizational skills rivalling David Allen, this Valley boy and Dalhousie Grad became a playa. To listen to him, it was as easy as falling off an wine barrel. He pitched to the 3 Chambers of Commerces in Kings Co. first. They got on board. Then he got ahold of the provincial Wines of Nova Scotia and Grape Grower's association, a few wineries. They picked it up and ran with it. When the provincial departments of Agriculture and Tourism, and some Federal agencies clamoured on, the project took off.

"The key to all of this was the fact that I didn't have to sell people on the idea. There's already established wineries, land, infrastructure, people with money," Clarke says, speaking in his full promotional mode, "and this program promotes Tourism, business development, job creation, diversification of agricultural industry, preservation of agricultural land."

"Instantly, everybody was onside," he said. "There were a lot of partners. Any meeting I called, people were more than happy to drive to our area to come to the meetings and give their two cents. Props to everybody."

Wait a sec. Is this the same Nova Scotia you and I live in? The one that can't decide how to price gas or market lobster? Wine is Sexshay these days, I guess. The program Clarke pushes promotes pretty much whatever you want it to, as long as wine is involved. Surprisingly, for all of Clarke's enthusiasm, the program's goals are modest. "The goal here is not to become the new Niagara Region or the new Napa Valley," Clarke told me. "We don't have the population base here, it doesn't make sense to try to strive for that."

He refers to the the Winery Association's vision: 20 wineries operating in the province in 20 years and increase annual revenue from $7.2 million to $23 million by 2020. Right now, there are 22 Grape growers. 9 wineries. "Slow and steady controlled growth where we can grow quality wines with a brand recognition. Low quality wines will only bring harm to our industry. We're seeing a lot of local people who want to start small. They're not going full tilt on starting a winery, but starting off with a few acres of grapes and seeing how that works."

Again. Sensible growth plan: is this Nova Scotia? Clarke won't say how much outside investment he's banking on from this initiative, but he's had 30 interested call since last August; one from a Nova Scotian who went to France to learn vinticulture and wants to return. As he tells me this, Mark Parent, Minister of Agriculture, walks by. He puts his hand on Clarke's shoulder and says, "go to it!"

When the website launched a couple weeks ago, Clarke handed it off to his colleagues at the Wine Association of Nova Scotia, who are now the prime managers of site and the investment program as a whole.

Golden boy Clarke. I imagine some political party must have their eye on him. I don't know, I'm just sayin'.

Andy Murdoch

Andy Murdoch is an awesome guy.
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