Newfoundland; Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies

By R. A. MacKay | Go to book overview

IV
BUSINESS ORGANIZATION AND ENTERPRISE

APART from the large mining operations and the pulp and paper industry Newfoundland business is characteristic of the commercial rather than the industrial era of economic development. Merchandising is still the typical Newfoundland business enterprise, though it has given birth to minor manufacturing industries and economic services; and the merchant rather than the industrialist or the financier is still the typical Newfoundland business man.

The distinguishing features of the merchandising business in Newfoundland arise out of its historic relation to the fishing industry. Until virtually the present century the fishing industry was the sole dynamic of the economy. Practically the only business consisted of importing and distributing supplies to the industry and taking on a barter basis the fisherman's produce in return and marketing it abroad. Originally the importer, who was normally also an exporter, dealt directly with the fisherman, providing him with supplies and taking his produce in return. But as settlement spread, local merchants took on the functions of retail trade in the outports and collected the fish from the fishermen, the larger mercantile establishments in St. John's continuing as exporters, importers and wholesalers (and usually as retailers in St. John's). But the whole trade, in and out, funnelled through the St. John's merchants who dominated the trade of the Island. From merchandising the merchants branched into subsidiary enterprises--to financing of bank-fishing and sealing, to insurance brokerage, to steamship agencies, to banking (until the bank crash of 1894), and in recent times to the establishment of small manufacturing plants to produce

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