Head in the sand economic development

I continue to be disturbed by the message coming out of the province when it comes to attracting business investment to New Brunswick.

A recent Telegraph-Journal article made the following statement:

In a letter to the editor published last month in the Telegraph-Journal, Mr. Mesheau argued the province was one of the top performers across the country – landing 44 foreign direct investment projects between 2000 and 2004. Nova Scotia lagged with 32 while P.E.I. and Newfoundland lured eight a piece.

“Actually,” the minister wrote, “statistics demonstrate that New Brunswick ranks 4th in the country just behind Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.”

The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, though, argues differently – it says the province is in fact dead last in bringing in foreign investment over those four years. By measuring foreign investment against total investment dollars flowing into the province, it determined that foreign interests controlled only a five per cent share.

I have written alot about this in recent months. It seems that the provincial government believes its own marketing schtick – and that is a sad state of affairs indeed.

It is vitally important to project a positive marketing image when promoting New Brunswick in global markets. But that is exactly the wrong thing to do when looking inward and looking at policy development.

If the province is doing such a good job at attracting jobs, why are we among the worst in Canada for attracting investment? Further, and even more disturbing, when you back out call centre jobs there is almost nothing left. Not to denegrate call centre jobs but that well will eventually run dry and there seems to be no strategy at all to attract any companies in any other sector.

Nova Scotia has moved beyond call centres and is attracting higher end IT companies like RIM, Versata and a financial services firm from Bermuda.

PEI has developed a very significant aerospace cluster.

New Brunswick has developed……

Minister Mesheau would be well advised to get beyond defending the government record and start looking at developing some successful new industry attraction strategies.