When the Canadian Forces Base Summerside closure was announced in 1989, it meant the loss of over 1000 jobs and millions in wages for the local economy. But the community rallied — and turned a major loss into a major gain.
The people of Summerside determined the former air force base should be developed on the pillars of Aerospace and Training — and that is what happened. The property has been known as Slemon Park since 1992 and it is the home of the Atlantic Police Academy, the Summerside Airport and the Aerospace industry on PEI. The 1000 government jobs lost with the closure of CFB Summerside have been replaced with over 1000 jobs in Aerospace and other industries. As Slemon Park Corporation president, Shawn McCarvill puts it: “The aerospace industry didn’t exist 26 years ago and now it’s the 4th largest industry on Prince Edward Island.” READ MORE >
Shawn is a very proud Islander and proud of the success story that Summerside has become since that 1989 announcement. Originally from Kinkora, he graduated from UPEI in 1980, worked in Africa, Newfoundland and Ottawa, becoming a Chartered Accountant along the way, and then had the opportunity to return to PEI in 1985 to work as CFO for the Murphy Group of companies in Charlottetown. Shawn was the CFO for Slemon Park Corporation between 1991 and 1995 and returned in 2008 to become president of the corporation.
Shawn says his greatest accomplishment is raising his family here. “Living on PEI allows your family to flourish. We have a culture that values education and community. The quality of life, the strength of the education system, and the lifestyle we have enjoyed have enabled all 5 of our children to find success.”
Regarding Summerside in general, Shawn says “We have a beautiful ocean-side city, people with a can-do attitude and unlimited possibilities. When talking about possibilities, Slemon Park is a possibility realized.”
Shawna is originally from Bedeque and has spent a significant amount of her life in Summerside. At an early age, she found herself at a career crossroads and decided to take the bull by the horns and obtain certification as a Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP), a designation offered by the Insurance Institute of Canada. She didn’t stop there, however. Following her CIP challenge, she decided to push further by pursuing Life License Qualification Program (LLQP) certification.
Today, Shawna services customers in Central and Western PEI, including the residents of Summerside. When it comes to this area, Shawna recognized its merits long ago. “Other cities are packed with competitors, so the opportunity to learn and grow here are outstanding. The individual is in control of whether they want to ascend the ranks in their industry.” READ MORE >
It appears the best thing about Shawna’s job might be the people. “Starting out took a lot of trust in my own abilities and trust in the community that they would want to do business with me.” Forming real bonds with her clients, it turns out Shawna’s trust was well founded on both counts. “When you build relationships, you have a vested interest in helping them, and they truly embrace you. The value added is more important than the money.”
When asked what advice she would give to others starting out, she replied “Either embrace your dream or let your fears consume you.”
Sean is from Summerside and graduated from UPEI with a BA in Political Studies. If you’d asked him a decade ago, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”, he likely wouldn’t have said “An entrepreneur in Summerside”. He spent several years surveying the country: Fort MacMurray, Calgary, Moose Jaw, London, St. John’s, and Saint John. Working jobs in construction, carpentry and sales, he’d also eyed a career as a lawyer and even wrote the LSAT.
Caley, Sean’s wife, said “Why don’t you start your own barber shop?” Seems there was great wisdom in these words. To Sean, the idea combined several things he’d become passionate about: working with his hands, constant interaction with other people and running a business. He quickly identified Summerside, his home town, as a place with a barbershop gap and wasted no time rectifying the situation, immediately enrolling in Barber School. READ MORE >
Asked why he chose Summerside in particular, Sean replies “I wanted to be in control of my life. My family has two entrepreneurs and a two-and-a-half-year-old. That doesn’t always work in bigger centres, but it works here.” Caley, Sean’s wife, is a photographer and the owner of Caley Joy Photography.
After living in so many places, Sean was quickly reminded of Summerside’s advantages when he came back. “We love the traffic, the pace of life, and knowing everyone at the grocery store and on the street. We can fill our work schedules and still have time for family.” Sean chose Downtown Summerside for his business because he knew he’d stand out and be warmly embraced. “You can create a nice spot, be instantly recognized, push things further and have an impact on the community. I see Summerside as a place I will never leave.”
To anyone considering Summerside as a place to live and do business, Sean has this to say: “We’re becoming more diverse all the time. It makes us stronger and more tightlyknit. People see the possibilities here and want to be part of it. That’s why I’m here!”
Originally from Summerside, Steve obtained his accounting education from St. Mary’s University in Halifax. Following graduation, he remained living and working in Halifax, likely thinking his PEI days were behind him. After all, there’s little chance he would find an opportunity in his home province, much less his home town, right? Wrong!
Not long after graduating, Steve got drift of a position in the Department of Finance at Vector Aerospace, now known as StandardAero. Nailing it, Steve made his way back to Summerside in 2011, much to his parents’ delight, and worked in accounting, his area of training. He then sped up the corporate ladder. A rough timeline of Steve’s progress reads: READ MORE >
2012: Accountant in company office in Australia
2013: Promoted to Senior Financial Analyst
2014: Promoted to Controller in Summerside
When asked if the brisk climb surprised him, Steve chuckled: “I just didn’t think it was possible to ascend this fast.” Now Steve can’t imagine living anywhere else but Summerside. “I don’t need to use all my vacation to come to PEI anymore. Living here, I see my family and friends every day.” He also enjoys the low commute times that get him to the adventure sports and beaches he loves in no time. As Steve says: “There are lots of opportunities here and they’re often better. I looked at my hobbies, places I’d be happy raising a family and career choices. For me, they all lined up in Summerside, the place I was born and raised.”
Opportunities at StandardAero are definitely worth keeping an eye on and they have an academic partner that helps immensely. “Holland College training programs are aligned with the aerospace industry so that students can begin careers right after graduating.”
Steve’s final comment sums it all up very nicely: “If you can work here, you really have everything!”