Dumping the name Business New Brunswick

The TJ is reporting this morning that Business New Brunswick will be getting a new name. I have said on these pages before that BNB meant nothing as a concept. After 10 years of trying to educate folks about the term ‘economic development’ and finally getting traction the government switches to BNB which means nothing – it could mean a trade association, a lobby group, anything.

I prefer Department of Economic Development.

But as Donald Savoie points out in his comments, changing a name means little.

The real test will be how the mission changes and how that is cascaded through the entire economic development structure of New Brunswick.

Byrne and Murphy are rumoured to be the picks for the job – I heard it would be Lamrock. All three of those are senior guys that would be aggressive and visionary leading that department (I hope).

I still think they would be better off (as I have said before many times) to spin off a small, elite team of experts focused on attracting industry and targeted trade development. I think the new Dept. of Economic Development should focus on policy development, embedding economic development thinking across government and up/down the system in New Brunswick. I think that the entire focus on small business should be re-evaluated. I don’t see much economic development value in encouraging folks to start small businesses that service just the local market and that have an 85% failure rate. Rather, government should seek out the top creme de la creme gazelles – fast growing, high potential firms and see what it can do to support them through the formulative stages of growth (if anything).

I also think that the political layer of government must bring leadership to economic development. True leadership. I still remember, hauntingly, a senior official with then EDT telling me that Minister Mesheau was ‘saying a lot of things’ but he will ‘eventually come around’ after ‘we circle the wagons’ around him.

That is wrong. Rightly or wrongly, the Minister and the Premier cast the vision and the department is supposed to deliver.

Over the past eight years, there has been no real vision and no real action.

So the new Minister needs to do a few things. Make sure the senior leadership team is very strong – not partisan (either old Tories or new Grits) and has a clear understanding of the vision.

The the department has to be properly structured and resourced to achieve the vision.

Easy to say, hard to do.