I was in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador (yes, that’s one province), the week of June 16 at the Newfoundland Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) meeting. The place was postively abuzz with the prospect of a new offshore development called Hebron, which is rumored to be launching in the next couple of weeks.

I ran into a lot of the usual things during my week in St. John’s – the usual RDF (rain, drizzle, and fog) from Mother Nature, the usual warm welcome from Pat at the front desk at the Delta Hotel, and the usual chatter among NOIA attendees about the “potential” of the province’s offshore.

What was different this year, though, was the palpable optimism about the next offshore development. The Hebron field, which lies in the Jeanne d’Arc basin, will be the province’s fourth major offshore project following Hibernia in 1998, Terra Nova in 2002, and White Rose in 2005.

Newfoundland, which joined the confederation of Canadian provinces in 1949, has been a have-not province since that time, and out migration over the years has been high. Many Newfoundlanders in search of jobs have made their way to Alberta to work in the oil and gas industry. The hope in Newfoundland today is that many of those workers will return home to work on this upcoming project.

There are many who still view Newfoundland as a place people leave in order to make a living, not a place people return to if they’re serious about building a career. Today, I believe that is changing.

There are, of course detractors of Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, but I think his talent as a businessman is exactly what the province has needed for decades.

Williams has negotiated a good deal for the province with the operators of the Hebron project and might well be remembered as the man who provided a lot of Newfoundlanders a way to come home.