The importance of leadership on the economic development file

There are a few U.S. governors that are leading the pack when it comes to proactive economic development. Iowa Governor Vilsack has done a number of important things including significant new spending, new people attraction strategies and sector-specific recruitment. Illinois Governor Blagojevich has also been very aggressive and successful. But Pennsylvania’s Governor was the one winning the award recently:

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell received the International Economic Development Council‘s annual leadership award last Monday in recognition of his economic development efforts in the public sector.

Since Rendell took office in 2003, more than 122,000 new jobs have been created in the state and $1.3 billion has been returned to its boroughs, cities, and towns, IEDC said.

Frank McKenna won the Economic Developers Association of Canada award as Economic Developer of the Year in the mid 1990s. He was the only politician to ever win that award.

That was then. This is now.

New Premier Graham would be well advised to play a direct and active role in the economic development of New Brunswick. To leave it to a department or agency with little or no support from the Premier would be a huge mistake. We have the last seven years to prove that.

Graham doesn’t have to seek awards nor emulate McKenna. As I have stated here many times, a one-man-show won’t be good enough this time. The Premier will need a top notch team of experts backed by the full support of Cabinet. But he will also have to play an important leadership role.

If someone comes to him and says, KIA is looking for a North American site for a manufacturing plant that would employ 1,000 people directly and another 1,500 in allied industries, he should get on a plane and go to Korea. Ideally, he would grab the PM or Industry Minister as support. He would assure KIA management that New Brunswick wants to play and they should look a little further north of Alabama.

He would then work with his federal partners on a value proposition for KIA – training, infrastructure, recruitment support – that would be compelling to the company.

That’s the kind of Premier I think we need circa 2006.

The time for waffling and double talk is over.