Dispatch from the road – Washington

I journeyed down to Washington this weekend to see the Expos – er, Nationals play. After being a fan for 25 years, a little thing like changing cities wouldn’t sway my allegiance.

But after spending a few days in the good ol’ USA, I bring forward a few considerations.

1. Branding
Driving down here I saw billboards advertising Tennessee, Lousiana, Florida, etc. as a good place for business. I heard radio advertising and watched TV advertising of location pitching themselves as a great place for business. Pennsylvania has their Website on their license plates. It’s clear that U.S. states are spending massive amounts of money trying to brand their communities as the best place to locate business. My question is, what is New Brunswick doing?

2. Sourcing Investment
Related to the first point, the US is the largest source of investment but it is also, by far, the most contested. I am not sure that New Brunswick could spend enough money to really get noticed. Maybe we should try some other markets. How about setting up a sales office in New Zealand? Or Brazil? Or India (watch out Ontario, Alberta, Sweden, Ireland have all set up sales offices in India in recent months)?

Guess what, New Brunswick has zero ‘sales’ offices in foreign countries. We spend almost nothing on marketing our province (relative to other states/provinces).

We need to significantly ramp up our marketing efforts to promote the province as a place to do business. Instead of running joint advertisments with beer companies promoting tourism, how about running joint ads with Exxon promoting business investment in our province?

We need to attract an order of magnitude more investment in order to make New Brunswick a self-sufficient economy. I don’t care if that investment comes from Dubai, New Delhi, Wellington or Boise.

I did read Al Hogan’s editorial about the Premier’s visit to Moncton last week. I hope that some of those ‘leaders’ brought to the attention of the Premier that non-location specific business investments into Greater Moncton are off 80% since he came into office. I hope that our ‘leaders’ haven’t forgot what drives economic growth. During the 1990s, over two dozen national and international companies such as UPS, FedEx, Exxon, etc. set up here creating over 4,000 jobs. This economic activity stimulated the secondary economic growth from retail and construction as well as other service jobs. Since 1999, this external investment activity has dropped of dramatically. There have been some expansions of existing facilities but the new investments have been minimal.

The new Home Depots, Walmarts and residential housing will subside without that primary economic activity.

So, I hope that the ‘leaders’, instead of lobbying for more government spending in the city, really pushed the Premier on the need for more external business investment. I hope the Premier has a plan for the ‘next’ call centre sector. Without a similar initiative, New Brunswick as a whole will continue to decline and that will eventually hit Moncton.

You would think that even the Premier’s press secretary, Al Hogan, would realize that economic development follows a series of cycles – primary investment, secondary results, and then….