Rah, rah, rah Bathurst

I just finished reading Aloma Jardine’s piece Mill closure doesn’t have to be death knell in the Times & Transcript.

Jardine eloquently issues a call to arms. Be more like Moncton, she says. Buck up. It’s all about attitude.

She continues:

I want you to realize something. You live in a city with great potential. You have wonderful beaches, a downtown right on the waterfront, a low cost of living. You have fabulous infrastructure, lots of small business owners with good ideas, access to post-secondary education. You have amazingly talented people like Ludmila Knezkova-Hussey, who can bring a whole new dimension to arts and culture in the city, and Glen Ferguson, who didn’t see any reason why he couldn’t produce a television series right at home, so he did.

I agree with her assessment but it left me a little disappointed because there wasn’t even a vague reference as to ‘how’.

If I was advising Ms. Jardine, I would have said that Bathurst is losing its mills and mines so it must replace these large, anchor employers with others – with new economy employers. So, how can we do this. Let’s carve out a niche for Bathurst that makes it attractive for a certain economic sector. Then let’s go out and find international companies to come in and fill the vacuum left by the closures.

Smurfit-Stone is an $8 billion in sales, Chicago-based firm.
Noranda is a $6 billion in sales, Toronto-based firm.

It ain’t gonna cut the mustard to replace these megafirms offering good wages and benefits with a bunch of small businesses, folks. We are going to have to go out and find large firms that will be enticed to locate in Bathurst.

But to give you folks some hope, let me give you the example of Bathurst. Bathurst, Australia. This other Bathurst is located 200 km from Sydney (sound familiar) and has a population of just under 30,000 people – or in other words, not much more than our Bathurst (24,000).

There is a slight difference, however. From 1991 to 2001, our Bathurst saw its population drop by 7% – a massive drop. From 1991 to 2001, Australia’s Bathurst saw its population grow by 9.8%.

So for all you Ibbitson-loving, inevitability-of-rural-decline-brainwashed and possibly braindead folks who don’t believe that small communities located two-hours or more from a large urban centre can’t grow – I offer you Bathurst. Bathurst, Australia.

How do they do it? I haven’t done a thorough study but here is the stated mandate of the city council:

Bathurst Regional Council’s plans include protection of the heritage of the City, maintenance of Mount Panorama as the premier racing circuit in Australia, and growth for the citizens of the Bathurst region by attracting new industries and services and building an infrastructure to cater for the future.

Whoa. Just wait a darn-tootin’ minute. A city that states that it’s mandate is attracting new industries?

Now, I searched the City of Bathurst (NB) web site thoroughly and I couldn’t even find a mention of attracting business let alone making it part of the city’s key strategic priorities (like Bathurst, Australia).

So, I went to the Enterprise Chaleur web site. This is the group that is mandated to do economic development for Bathurst (NB). After a thorough review, it seems that Enterprise Chaleur is mostly about small businesses. The offer counselling, financing advice, business planning support, etc. There are vague references to investment but even at that I was quite confused.

Cripes, folks. The mandate of Enterprise Chaleur should be to attract large businesses to Bathurst. Plain and Simple. And the City of Bathurst should have the attraction of new industries as one of its key priorities just like the other Bathurst.

When will we learn? When the thing collapses?