International businesses in New Brunswick

A reader asked me recently how many foreign companies have actually set up in New Brunswick?

Well, that’s a good question and pretty important given that our economic future depends on our ability to attract investment.

So, I went to the department of Business New Brunswick to catalog all the foreign companies that have set up here and look at them by country of origin, by investment amount, # of jobs, usual stuff.

The BNB site has press releases related to new business investments going back to 1999. There have been 340 economic development-related press releases since January 12, 2000. I went through them and here’s a sample of what I found:

  • There are only three (3) companies from outside Canada that have made business investments in New Brunswick since 2000 – that were not in the province already. That’s about one every 1.5 years.
  • There are only a handful of Canadian firms that have made business investments here that were not here already (pre 1999).
  • There are no European, Asia or other global firms that have made business investments here since 1999 (that were not here already).

Now, this seems impossible to me. Maybe BNB isn’t announcing all the company investments. Although this is unlikely because there are announcements of 3 new jobs. Maybe I am just missing something.

The Premier has been to France, twice I think, where are the French investments? The Premier goes to New York every year or so, where are the NYC investments?

And, perhaps more importantly, where are the journalists to sniff this stuff out. Surely it is in the public interest to assess how much success the government’s economic development programs are having.

Questions for an enterprising journalist:

1. How many new business investments into New Brunswick since 1999 (that’s new firms from outside the province that set up greenfield operations – new facilities not expansions)? Expansions are fine but somebody has got to go attract the firms in the first place (ie. McKenna)

2. How many of these investments were from outside Canada? This is critical as a large part of the Canadian economy is fuelled by foreign investments like Toyota, GM, Pratt Whitney, Michelin, etc.

3. What has been the success of NB compared to NS and PEI? We know from the employment growth figures that NS and PEI are kicking NB’s arse since 1999 but is that organic growth or has some of it been stimulated by aggressive and successful economic development policies?

Now, don’t expect this to appear anytime soon in the local press for two reasons: 1) it takes more research than just transcribing press releases, and 2) who cares? There might be a half dozen people that would even care that we are not attracting businesses and industries at the rate we were under McKenna. So, if you are a journalist or editor, this is a non-story.

But check back with me after the next recession when the Feds cut out 30% of our transfers because we were so dependent on other province residents’ tax dollars.

Check back with me after the additional closure of pulp mills, the closure of mines and the retrenchment of the fisheries sector.

Check back with me after the call centre industry peaks in employment and starts to decline as people move to self-service Web-based customer service.

Check back with me then.