This series is designed to introduce you to our current, future, and even some past board members.
We have new members joining the board soon, and wanted you to have an opportunity to get to know them, as well as the folks who are currently serving.
Meet Damian MacInnis, and find out why he was inspired to join NextGen.
I joined the NextGen Unama’ki board in 2017 just after I left my position with the Cape Breton Regional Enterprise Network (CBREN) to pursue a business opportunity. During my time with the CBREN and as my time as Executive Director with the Strait Area Chamber, I saw a resurgence of young people that either wanted to stay in Cape Breton to work, move back to be with family or simply move here from outside of the Island because of the great things happening in our region. It was this reason that I decided to join the board to help get the message across the entire Island about Next Gen, represent the regions outside of CBRM, and to spread the message that Cape Breton is a special place to live, work and play.
Every year, Next Gen highlights individuals and businesses across the Island that are doing exceptional things to allow young professionals make living here. NextGen is a catalyst in being the voice for professionals under 40 and showcasing these people/businesses at our annual Vital Awards. If you have not been able to attend this event, I highly suggest it. I leave that event invigorated and extremely happy because I know that “our Island” will continue to thrive with so many young professionals at the helm of development and opportunities. You hear from entrepreneurs, community leaders, special employees within companies, and businesses that are dedicated to build an youthful workforce because they understand that is what we need in order to sustain our population and the economy.
I can honestly say that the best decision I have ever made was to move back to Cape Breton following a couple stints in Nunavut where I worked as a Recreation Director, Economic Development Officer and VP Business Development. I loved my time in Canada’s Arctic, made numerous friends that I consider family, and cherished my time learning the culture, language and everything that it had to offer. However, when the time came to move home, I knew it was the right move.
As mentioned, I served as the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, where I was able to meet all the movers and shakers in the region, became a major advocate in the buy-local movement, and really could see the opportunities that we have as a region. We are a blank slate on the global scale and youth in our region are at the cusp of a tech world that my generation did not grow up in. You can see the strides startups are making in the Sydney area and throughout the region. I am excited to see my children build on these opportunities and take advantage of them to build our region. Since my time at the Chamber, I also served as an Economic Development Officer with the CBREN, which was a valuable time spent understanding the inner workings of a government funded organization.
However, the entrepreneur inside of me was more fixed to building my own business. I was the Founder of Celtic Air Services and asked a former colleague of mine to come on board to build up the Port Hawkesbury Airport. A worthwhile experience, but have since sold my shares in that company and am now building up my business consultancy firm Colindale Business Solutions, based out of Port Hood. Every day I work with businesses across Atlantic Canada, helping them with day to day operational issues and finding solutions for them to ensure their success. This is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Just recently, I have brought on other freelancers to offer more services within my firm with a focus on digital marketing, public relations, business development, property management, project management, and real estate development.
Building a business in Cape Breton is not for the faint of heart. There are many challenges that we face including the lack of high speed Internet and cell phone service. I know my business would do much better in another area but the main reason I love living and being from Cape Breton is the feeling of home. My family is from here, people genuinely care about their neighbors, and the natural beauty across every corner of the Island is world renowned. That is what sticks with you when you leave here. Every time I would cross the Causeway heading back to Nunavut, I remember tearing up and I couldn’t understand why. Now I do, it was because I never knew if I would ever find my way back here. That feeling of home is entrenched in so many people that are not living here, and I am fortunate enough to be able to live here and bring my family up surrounded with family and the beauty that exists.
To our group of volunteers that are currently on the NextGen Unama’ki board, thank you for your patience with me and understanding why I wanted to push for an Island-wide approach to this board. I know you all truly care about the entire Island and want to see it prosper along with everyone and every business that resides. Your passion and love for our region is evident and I look forward to working with you all in the future in some capacity. This will be my last year on the Board, as I crouch closer to 40, I want to give the younger generation an opportunity to lead. To the next group of NextGen Board members coming in, carry the torch, be leaders, don’t be shy to ruffle some feathers to get your voice heard. You are representing the next generation of leaders, be the ones that will guide them along.