The first round of layoffs at the Michelin tire plant in Granton, N.S., is still months away, but Premier Stephen McNeil says it's time to put together a plan to cushion the blow.

McNeil and some cabinet ministers are convening in Pictou County on Friday to meet with municipal leaders about what to do now that Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., has decided to shut down its small tire plant, slashing 500 jobs.

“We want to be able to see where are the opportunities with the programs that we have that we can help mitigate some of the challenges for that community,” he said.

The meeting at the Museum of Industry in Stellarton will include Economic Development Minister Michel Samson, Labour Minister Kelly Regan and Finance Minister Diana Whalen.

If Michelin needs help, McNeil said his government is ready to offer some but any financial aid will be free of grants to the multinational corporation.

“There has been no commitment. No ask into the government. So I'll wait and see what's asked. I'm willing to help any entrepreneur that wants to come into this province if we can do it that's short of a grant. If someone wants to come in this province and create economic development we're open for business,” he said.

Regan said her department can offer practical help to the affected workers when it comes to unemployment benefits or retraining.

“We can help with applications for unemployment insurance when that particular need arises. We can help with resume writing, career counselling. Just some basic ideas of where you want to go or the nitty gritty of getting those things underway. Whether it's retraining or whatever,” she said.

No free money

The Liberal premier was elected last fall after a campaign in which McNeil promised to end so-called giveaways to large corporations.

Asked whether he would break that pledge to keep Michelin in Nova Scotia, McNeil replied: "We've sent a message to companies in this province that were not in the business of giving out free money. We have not ruled out the possibility of being in a loan position with companies."

The last of the 500 workers directly affected by the Michelin shutdown will be out of a job by June of next year.

The cuts start this summer.

The company said it will phase out production of small tires at the plant in response to a continuing shift towards larger tires in the North American car tire market.

with files from the Canadian Press