Ask and ye shall receive – part deux

Just a quick thought tonight before I get back to my day, er night job. I was working with a client in rural Atlantic Canada not too long ago and there was a high level of frustration. This was a small, rural town of a couple thousand people but with high unemployment. The provincial government dropped a 100 person manufacturing project on their lap (more like imposed) and it all but failed. No one would work in it. The province was frustrated as they thought they would be received like kings and the local community was frustrated because they weren’t consulted on the project.

If they had been consulted, they would have told the province that the EI premium was too great for people to switch to year round, full time jobs at $8/hour.

Now, before you go all Rambo-like and tell me that those thankless SOBs should have taken the jobs and gave up their EI, hear me out.

Maybe we should spend a little time asking the actual local people what types of jobs they would like in their communities. There is no guarantee that any government or economic development group could deliver but I think that would be a great place to start – and it’s, I think, something not many communities do.

Think about this for a minute. Let’s take the much-talked-about-recently Acadian Peninsula. One of the poorest and most destitute rural regions in Canada by most measures.

What if someone went into the high schools and asked the kids what it would take to draw them back after university or college. Would they work in a computer animation studio? How about a language translation outfit? How about a manufacturing operation?

What if we posed the same question to the unemployed?

I’m not talking about getting expectations out of whack – this things are not easy – but at least you would have some sense of what people think would be meaningful careers and job opportunities.

Take the Bennett plant in Belledune. ‘Anonymous’ will be very put out but I never saw the problem. The effluent coming out of that plant is about the same as your local gas station. It is, I am told by folks I trust, a very environmentally friendly process.

But that may not be the point. Maybe if somebody had bothered to ask the residents up there they would have found a deep skepticism about this type of project because of the smelter and other industrial projects that have actually polluted the region.

Maybe the community would have said ‘non’ in advance – and that just might be okay.

This is a major reversal for me as I used to be in the ‘those ungrateful SOB….’ category.

But we all grow with the times.

Maybe we should ask them what they want and then go work on it – not vice versa.