We’ve got a way to go

I was asked to join a panel discussion on Maritime Noon today (CBC) about the role of government when it comes to providing incentives to industry. This has become a topical issue because of the Stora Enso pulp mill in Cape Breton and the company’s demands for support. It also applies to the pulp & paper mill in Miramichi, I suppose.

There were some interesting callers with points of view varying from governments should never give money to industry all the way to full support for subsidizing a plant indefinitely not to lose the jobs.

I think that economic development may be starting to raise the interest of the general public – which is a key objective of this blog – although the readership is limited to the Web-savvy segment of the public.

I think we need to discuss this in the town square. The public needs to know that there are things that can be done to help communities transition from being based on old economy industries to new ones. These are longer term strategies and involve reorienting a community around new ideas, but I think it can be done.

I’ll reiterate the Miramichi model. The community college in the Miramichi is cranking out highly talented video game developers. Many go out of province to work and in fact several have started successful video game development firms. There is very little direct value to Miramichi from this training program. I think the city and the economic development group should try and leverage that advantage to attract game development studios to the Miramichi. Over 10 years, it is reasonable to think that 300-400 gamers could be working and living in the Miramichi. Will it replace the mill? No, but it’s a start.