I have never forgotten Parrsboro

First RIM, now this:

Rural Nova Scotia has a new champion, and his name is Kerry Martens. The Vancouver man is pledging to create 1,500 jobs in the Cumberland County community of Parrsboro in the next two years. And he plans to do it without a dime from Nova Scotia taxpayers. The owner of Headz Gamez International, a company based in Richmond, B. C., that produces sports-themed board games, wants to bring about half of his production to the province from China, where he employs 3,000 people. The move would make him one of the largest employers in the province.

Although he isn’t looking for any direct assistance for his company from any level of government, Mr. Martens said in a phone interview Friday that he does want to see public investments in the town’s infrastructure, including roads, sewers, schools and the hospital.

Mr. Martens first fell in love with the town and its people 30 years ago when he was a 17-year-old in the navy stationed in Halifax along with Parrsboro native Bill Perry, who took him home at Christmas and throughout the year. “I’ve flown all over the world and I have never forgotten Parrsboro,” he said.

Mr. Martens approached the town about two months ago to express his interest in bringing his business to the area. Town council helped him acquire 17 acres in the town’s industrial park. He plans to build a 14,000-square-foot assembly plant and 19,000-square-foot printing factory, followed by a 12,000-square-foot storage building, office building, day-care centre for employees and community centre for the town.

Couple of points:

1) Where’s Peter Mesheau to comfort us by telling us that this project would be too big for New Brunswick.

2) Linkages, folks. It’s all about linkages. We need to look far and wide for business leaders with some attachment to New Brunswick (lived here, went to school here, vacationed here, fished salmon here, etc.) and pitch them on this type of deal.

3) For those of you who don’t believe in rural development, take a second look.

4) And for those of you that would crap on this project (low wages or whatever), please forget it. I did a presentation a couple of years ago in Parrsboro and there were about 30 Parrsboroians in the room and I just had a sense that they wanted some hope. That they were tired of watching the slow decline of their community (ies) and way of life. I have said we need to go out and get ‘anchor employers’ like Michelin, etc. to bolster these rural economies.

5) You get the sense that Nova Scotia is quite eager to attract industry. In the past six months, RIM 1,200 jobs, Canada’s Cape Canaveral which could create 3,000 jobs in rural NS and now this guy and his 1,500 manufacturing, engineering and service jobs. If this happens, what a boom for that part of Nova Scotia.

6) There’s an election coming in New Brunswick. You had better take a long look at the party platforms and track record. Peel through the layers of clutter and spin and take a look for the party that says “we will go out and attract world class companies to invest in New Brunswick”. The party with the most credible plan should be supported. We cannot wait any longer. Cripes, even Nova Scotia is kicking our collective arse.

By the way, I was in Parrsboro and region last weekend and there is something compelling about that region. I can’t put my finger on it…..

20 thoughts on “I have never forgotten Parrsboro

  1. Hey David,

    Would you happen to have the budget numbers to compare BNB and BNS? It would be interesting to see how the 2 compare…

  2. Governments do everything in their power to ensure the impossibility of real ‘comparison’. Nova Scotia, with NSBI and the Office of Economic Development spend more than BNB – considerably more – but there may be more functions in the OED.

  3. Keep in mind that’s another problem with economic development. How do you ‘market’ a place when investment can come from some guy who visited the place when he was 17? It’s pretty tough.

    That does bring up some ideas though, how many canadians business owners have operations in China or elsewhere that are seeing costs treble because of rising living wages in China (albeit small) but also rising oil prices.

    This is where I think AIMS is absolutely wrong. With rising oil prices here to stay, investment in infrastructure should look at all those towns that could be ‘company towns’ (could be both good or bad,but at least they have the option)

    The maritimes should be getting into COMPETING with China. If you have subsidized power, even subsidized low income housing then that makes it that much easier. Keep in mind that escalating power costs are as likely to run people out of the province as anything else. If this election is about energy, people should be looking at capping what they can charge for power so that the rest is paid for by exports. As it is, even the liberal plan will have them selling abroad, meaning New Brunswickers will have to pay the same costs.

    But as I’ve said, if you set up a wind plant in a rural coastal town in their industrial park, a company could potentially have zero power rates.

    I know that is a return to the thirties where owners made fortunes which were protected by governments, but realistically that is happening anyway.

    Another issue is, sports board games need new products. When you have them local, local innovators can take advantage of that.

    But keep in mind that provincially Nova Scotia had nothing to do with this, so its hard to compare with New Brunswick. If I had similar clout and contacted somebody in, say, Tide Head, I have a feeeling I’d get a similar welcome.

    It’s sad to see the new feudal barons getting councils to do what they say though, the simple answer to his addresses for road and infrastructure investment should be “buddy, when you set up shop here and all these people are getting good wages and we can get tax dollars, all those things will get done” Otherwise, what’s next “All I want the local council to do is make sure I always have a ready supply of low paid workers and not raise a fuss when I lay them off to collect pogey” That latter part happens often enough.

  4. I would like to add, that NSBI is a crown corporation, with a Board of Directors and is Private-sector lead, and Office of Economic Development is Provincial.

    NSBI was created in 2001, part of Opportunities for Prosperity (familiar ring?).

    Having met many staff from NSBI in the past, I can attest that they are truely a great agency, an accountable one! …

    They are proud of their track record, something BNB’s records are only revealed thru Access to Information, which newspaper pokes thru these stats? The last report on BNB by TNT that I remember was way back in 2001.

  5. Hello everybody I have never been on one of these blogger posts before but I did feel inclined to comment on one of the fellas that stated;

    “It’s sad to see the new feudal barons getting councils to do what they say though, the simple answer to his addresses for road and infrastructure investment should be “buddy, when you set up shop here and all these people are getting good wages and we can get tax dollars, all those things will get done” Otherwise, what’s next “All I want the local council to do is make sure I always have a ready supply of low paid workers and not raise a fuss when I lay them off to collect pogey” That latter part happens often enough.”

    I would like to clarify about the comment “All I want the local council” and so on.

    As the CEO/President of Headz Gamez (HGI)I can assure you that these are starting wages for the line workers. There are no “minimum” wage jobs anywhere in our factory or in our company. There will be hundreds of people at our company that make $60,000.00 plus per year. I have noticed that you would like to remain anonymous and so be it but if you would rather talk to the person that has made this decision than please call me at the Parrsboro office of which you can find the number through the 411 people.

    I assure you that I am not a person that would “use” the fact that there is a lower per capita wage in NS as a basis for my decision. It is about Land costs and the convenience of being only 4 days from the EU which is one of our largest markets, that was a huge factor in deciding on Parrsboro. Yes I do love the town and I will do everything that I can to protect it’s beauty and energy.

    We may also be setting up another factory to produce the paper board that we use for our game. It is not a trivial matter the amount of board that we will use and if HGI puts the Factory for this in NFLD or NB it will once again be a choice of economics’ and a win-win situation for all concerned.

    Kerry Martens CEO/President Headz Gamez Enterprises International Corp. (HGI)

    Griddly Headz home of;
    “The world’s toughest board games”
    Kerry Martens;CEO/PRESIDENT
    [email protected]
    Headz GamezEnterprisesInternationalCorp.
    Tel: 604-276-2850; Fax: 604-276-2857
    This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager. This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.

  6. My Comment is:
    Why do other people have to be so very negative about what goes on somewhere’s else and not in their area is it that it is a positive thing for that area but not for theirs?
    Is it “Jealousy” ??? Because I think it is a great thing for anyone (Especially a man like Kerry martens)to do this for people who have really needed this boost…and this could happen anywhere’s at any given time if there was only more people like Kerry Martens…it just happens that this man fell in love with a area that has stuck in his heart the same as myself as I & my wife (who also fell in love with this area)who came back here to start a business to make a difference in a small town that needed the service we provide and it is getting great comments and is being very successful for a second year and I believe this is the same thing but at a larger scale that Kerry martens is trying to do for this town.
    That has desperately needed a change as it has had much potential “With a Big Heart” but had gone to sleep.
    Anyways hats off to you Mr. Martens as it is one of the greatest things you have done in your life…You should feel proud and happy!
    We would like to take this time and Thank You for what you are doing for our “Small Town with A Big Heart” – “But where everything is Happening”.
    Thanks Again From: Troy & Crystal Melanson & Everyone Else in the Area as we All do appreciate everything you are doing for our town & area.

  7. Amen to that. If Henry Ford hadn’t decided to put his first auto plant in Flint, Michigan (a very small town), there would be no auto sector in central Canada/USA. If Bill Gates hadn’t put Microsoft in small Redmond, Washington, there wouldn’t be one of the largest IT industries in there in all of North America. If someone didn’t decide to build the Research Triangle Park in a God-forsaken area of North Carolina – the largest high tech park in the world wouldn’t be there.

    If someone hadn’t fallen in love with Parrsboro and put 1,500 jobs there, that community wouldn’t have become the model for rural development anchored by a large industrial project.

    Wait a minute. I made that last one up.

    Or did I?

  8. Welcome to the neighborhood Mr. Martens. And congrats to the people of NS. I am jeleouse, but in a good way.

  9. Congrats to Mr.Martens, I wish him all the best in bringing life back into Parrsboro,I grew up there,and have wonderful memories,still have family there as well.This opens up so many careers for the folks.Can’t wait to visit when it’s all said and done!!BRAVO!!!

  10. I am a bit amazed that there has not been more skepticism regarding this project. I suggest people go to http://www.hasbro.ie to see that Hasbro has a plant in Ireland that produces 12 different games including Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly plus Playdoh products and it only employs 500 people in a 250,000 square foot facility. Mr. Martens wants people to believe he is going to employ 1500 people in three facilities totaling less than 50,000 square feet. Just what exactly were his sales last year and were those sales really sufficient to complete such a project after less than three years in business? Who is going to finance his $25 million project? Why are almost all references to his company on the world wide web from only the last two months?

  11. How stupid does Kerry Martens think the people of Nova Scotia really are? It took too long, but there is now the realization that this guy is a fraud. Had anyone from BC ever heard of HeadZ Gamez International before the grand announcement. Not withstanding the 3000 employees in China (yeah right!)how many people do they employ today?

    A quick check of there website (see link below),

    shows that they sell their product through 3 retailers in BC and allegedly another dozen or so in NB and Nova Scotia. Does this sound like a Company that employs 3000 people in China? or more importantly, could employ 1500 in Nova Scotia?

    Wake up people. Kerry Martens and Headz Gamez International are a joke – they should be criminally prosecuted for playing on the hopes on a beautiful small town community in nova Scotia. The people of Parrsboro don’t deserve this. Shame on NSBI (Nova Scotia Business Inc) for not exposing this for what it is!

  12. I had the displeasure of meeting Kerry Martens. His arrogance and rudeness were unbelievable. Try saying “no” to him and watch him flip out into a rage. I pity anyone who works for him. I tried to call the office on the west coast and guess what…no one was there – something smells.

  13. I am glad to see that others are starting to see Kerry Martens for what he is – a fraud. In the world of the world wide web he doesn’t exist until now. I live in Toronto and have relatives in Nova Scotia. A friend of mine met him in a restaurant where he generously paid for her dinner BUT then turned into a creep when she wasn’t interested in keeping him company. He was stupid enough to give her his business card so we know it was him. This guy is a pervert! He said that he was married but lonely on the road. By the way, my friend is in her early 20’s. This guy looks to be in his mid to late 50’s – so now he isn’t only a fraud but a creep too!

  14. Yes this guy appears to be a second rate fraud and a creep.

    I wonder what his real intentions were here. I would expect he did have business in Parrsboro but it probably was nothing legal. After all, he is from BC and we know what BC is famous for.

  15. I had long hoped this plant would come to fruition but it is evident it never will. We have been taken by Mr. Martens. Why? What did Parrsboro ever do to him? We are a close and friendly town and welcome strangers with open arms.

    I have followed HGI’s plans in Parrsboro with interest. The “work” on the old post office seems to have never happened. Mr. Martens insisted they took loads of garbage from there but what else did they do? Nothing.

    Mr. Martens was quoted in our provincial paper as saying he would not order the windows locally as he didn’t like the price. He intended to MANUFACTURE them HIMSELF. Really now. Is he that multi-talented? He not only “manufactures” board games but windows as well?

    Let’s cut to the chase. The reason Mr. Martens couldn’t order the windows is that not one tradesperson or supplier in the area will do anything for him any more. In the beginning it was wonderful and there was hope. However, after he “stiffed” the tradespeople and the suppliers (that’s right; he doesn’t pay his bills at all) nobody would do business with him. That was our first indication that he was not what he seems.

    I am sorry my fellow citizens but I am not holding out hope that Mr. Martens will open a facility in Parrsboro now or ever. Anybody who is still hopeful still believes in the Easter Bunny.

    Do a search on the internet for this company. The only postings are from early this summer when this joker announced plans to open a plant in Parrsboro. (Slap forehead!!) Of course he announced “plans”. I have plans to go to win the lottery; now I just have to buy a ticket with the correct winning numbers!

  16. According to Dun & Bradstreet:

    Headz Gamez Enterprises International Corp
    13431 Maycrest Way Unit 150
    Vancouver, BC V6V 2M3
    Phone: 604-276-2850
    Fax: 604-276-2857
    Annual Sales (mil.) $1.9
    Total Employees 22

    Primary NAICS Code
    339932: Game, Toy, and Children’s Vehicle Manufacturing

    This is a functioning company but it would seem maybe the dream was out of whack.

    Again, I say this is too bad.

  17. My sister worked (yes past tense) for this company in the main office in Richmond BC. She was finally laid off in October but has not been paid since late August. The CEO told all staff he ran out of money and couldn’t afford to pay them. She told me that none of them had been paid since late August. The Vice President was the first to go in September.

  18. Excerpt Halifax Herald November 30th 2006:

    There were skeptics who worried the Headz Gamez International proposal to create 1,500 board-game jobs in Parrsboro would amount to little more than a cruel hoax, but senior municipal officials weren’t among them.

    British Columbia businessman Kerry Martens, the founder and former president of Headz Gamez, was not talking to reporters Wednesday, but did plenty of that in Cumberland County in September when he was promoting the planned Parrsboro enterprise. He recently sold most of his shares in the firm and has resigned as the company’s president and chief executive officer.

    Mr. Martens, who has told journalists he’s a self-made man who was once despondent and jumped off a bridge in Oregon, was living on welfare during a low period in his life and has declared bankruptcy in the past.

    Is this man’s middle name “fleece”? I bet his “investors” in British Columbia think so. I bet the owner of the Old Post Office thinks so.

  19. I think one of the worst parts of the whole matter is that if and when another job-creating franchise appears interested in Parrsboro, the people will be so cynical and disapproving of it that the new business will be discouraged. I mean, who wants to invest in a town full of uncaring people? I’m speaking as a resident of Parrsboro who had alot of optimism for this project, until it turned out to be too good to be true.

  20. Anyone who heard about this loonie coming to Parrsboro, trying to sell board games were doubtful from the start. Especially ppl who really know how to run a business. Nothing this dude said made sense. Just because the dude knows someone from Parrsboro, wears a suite and walks around speaking to locals telling them stories doesn’t make your company legit. I blame a lot of the hype on the town council and the media because they ate martin’s gossip and made people want to believe martin’s fictitious business plan. I really do think that Parrsboro learned a good lesson, its just too bad that this scum bag’s name and company name show up in the search results when you Google Parrsboro.

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