The Über Economic Developer

For those of you who think that nothing can be done in rural New Brunswick. That economies of scale and integrated logistics force investment into larger cities. That ‘clustering’ has doomed economic development in New Brunswick. Here’s a story that should lift your spirits:

In the summer of 2000, CJ [the CEO in this story] got a call from a folksy, gravel-voiced gentleman named Bob Potter, who ran economic development for Kootenai County in the Idaho panhandle. Potter is something of a legend in business recruitment circles. He has lured more than 70 companies, representing more than 4,000 jobs, to a remote corner of northern Idaho–the vast majority from California. Potter subscribes to the Orange County Business Journal, the Los Angeles Business Journal, and the Kiplinger California Letter. “I read those religiously,” the 79-year-old recruiter says. “I know what’s going on in California.” Thanks in part to his relentless wooing, Kootenai County is now home to 54,000 jobs and is gaining new ones at a rate of about 8 percent a year–one of the fastest employment-growth rates in the nation.

Northern Idaho, folks, in many ways makes Northern New Brunswick look like downtown Boston.

Yet, they have one of the fastest growing employment growth rates in the US. And it’s not based on its oil and gas. And, even more incredibly, one guy has been behind attracting 4,000 jobs.

He’s 79. For cripes sake, Bernie or Captain Kirk go hire this guy before he croaks. Plant him in Campbellton. Give him a budget.

It can be done folks. It takes vision. It takes leadership. It takes funding.

And it takes Bob Potter.