Before 1941, Stephenville was a quaint, little village on the shores of Newfoundland’s Bay St. George. The traditional ways of farming and fishing were the mainstays of the population of around 500 people. This was soon to change when the United States of America decided that Stephenville would become a vital refueling stop for American aircraft en route to Europe.
The economic impact of the base on the area during its construction phase was immense. The community was transformed into a boom-town overnight. The population increased to over 7,000 people. An extensive array of buildings was constructed and an elaborate infrastructure for servicing the base was developed.
The short-term economic viability of the area grew significantly as a result of the base, offering many benefits to area residents. The base did not offer long-term economic stability. In 1966 Ernest Harmon Air Force Base closed.
The airport, which included a runway over 2 miles long, was a valuable part of the American legacy. Today, owned and administered locally, Stephenville Airport is an alternate for Gander International Airport, and a regular stop for flights from other parts of eastern Canada.
On February 1, 1973, the Labrador Linerboard Limited opened a mill in Stephenville, with103 staff members and 416 union employees. The mill included the latest advances in mechanization, process technology and pollution control.
In 1981 Abitibi Consolidated purchased the mill for the production of newsprint and operated until October 2005
The main campus and administrative headquarters of The College of the North Atlantic is located in Stephenville. The college offers a variety of traditional programs and is a leader in its Information Technology Department.
Banks, retail and wholesale businesses, restaurants, hotels, recreation facilities, government offices, schools, medical services, and a large variety of small businesses, provide jobs for many people in Stephenville and fuel the vibrant economy of the whole region.
Stephenville, with its stable primary, secondary and tertiary industrial base, has become the hub of the economic activity in the Port au Port – Bay St. George region.