Collateral luck in economic development

When it comes to Moncton, Premier Lord must be thanking his lucky stars. Firstly, when he took power in 1999, the community was already growing strong. Then, during his tenure, a significant number of the call centres that are in the community announced expansion plans (of which the province was quick to take credit for). Then throw in the one project that was truly your own, Molson. This growth led to strong growth in retail, construction and other services. Presto, you have a strong economy and a grateful public and you will all but one of the seats in the Greater Moncton area (oh, and it helps to add in a bridge that takes five years to complete and probably 10 more to really be fininshed but Monctonians are a patient lot).

Now, the Premier is in town announcing 150 new jobs at Speilo. Another project that he and his economic development team were not required to go out and ‘attract’. They are here and they are expanding. But, to his good luck, the Premier will get a lot of credit.

Two points:

1) That strategy of sitting back and watching Moncton grow while intermitently throwing a few million at companies that are already here will not work in communities that did not attract these growth firms in the 1990s. It is equally true that the longer term economic growth of a place like Moncton will be in jeopardy without any new ‘call centre initiatives’ in the future. The growth of those firms will plateau and the economy will need a next round of national and international greenfield investments. And where are those coming from? Name me one sector (outside of call centres) that the province is aggressively attracting to the province?

2) To all you naysayers that crap on international firms and accuse them of ‘buying up’ local companies and then ‘closing them’, I am giving you a big, fat kick in the arse. GTech bought Speilo and then was so impressed they are now expanding it. If this isn’t a great example of why foreign investment works, then I don’t know of any.

So a note to all the gushing and giggling Monctonians: there is no new ‘call centre initiative’ on the horizon. These jobs will plateau. The retail sector will plateau. Construction will dry up. Where’s the next round of foriegn and national investments. GTech is great but how many more GTech’s are here?

The time is now to concentrate on a few strategic and viable sectors and go out and sell, sell, sell.

Or we can sit around and hope that GTech, et. al will expand again some day.