Ask and ye shall receive

A number of you have expressed frustration about the lack of action on economic development and also concluded that blogs like this are an exercise in futility because things don’t change. I don’t really agree with this as I think there needs to be more dialogue (blogs, newspapers, coffee shops, etc.) about the way ahead.

I have come to the conclusion in recent years that the general public (of which readers here are an admittedly small but interesting wedge) needs to get more engaged in discussions about the future of the economy and by extension our communities. I think for too long this has been left to a limited few. Too many people have misconceptions. Too many people think that there is nothing that can be done to stimulate economic development.

And as a result of this public apathy, governments and community leaders are spending less time and effort than ever before on issues of economic development in favour of those issues much more in the public eye – namely health care, senior care, etc. I don’t want to rehash statistics for you (I do that far too much, maybe) but direct spending on economic development by at least provincial and federal governments as a percentage of the overall budget is way down – even just in the last decade.

So, the various local economic development agencies around New Brunswick are looking for input into their economic development strategic plans.

I suggest that at least some of you take the opportunity to provide such input. I have been.

From today’s T&T:

Enterprise Miramichi seeks input for future growth
Questionnaire seeks local opinions on economy, environment and social change

MIRAMICHI – Enterprise Miramichi is looking for community input to carve out its path for the future.

Enterprise Miramichi is one of 15 Community Economic Development Agencies in the province. Its mandate is to foster community led economic development in the Miramichi Region. Every three years, Enterprise Miramichi creates a strategic plan.

“So what we’re doing now is basically an update or a revisal to that strategic plan,” said Brian Donovan, executive director of Enterprise Miramichi.

This time, the organization will have the added help of a questionnaire, or community growth strategy. That questionnaire will be distributed to communities in Enterprise Miramichi’s coverage area, which spans most of Northumberland County.

Enterprise Miramichi is working with municipal governments to help facilitate the questionnaire, which will seek information about the environmental, cultural, social and economic wishes of the community.

“Part of its reason for being is the gas tax revenue that’s coming down,” Donovan said.

“It’s something that’s required that the province has in place over the five-year plan for the gas tax revenue from its various municipalities, local service districts and so forth.

“What it also does is it sets a roadmap in place.”

So, for example, if there’s an economic need in a certain community that the gas tax revenue could be applied to, this information will help pinpoint that need.

That information may also uncover a need that could be addressed by existing programs, like those offered through the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency.

The goal is to get the questionnaire done before Enterprise completes its strategic plan.

“It’s under way now and what we’re doing is collecting information,” said Donovan.

The last time Enterprise completed a plan, in 2003, it identified specific sectors to concentrate on, such as fisheries, forestry, IT, tourism, service/retail and peat moss .

The plan helped to identify what would needed to be done to help those areas prosper. Donovan said this time around they will try to reassess those sectors to find out how they have faired and what needs to happen to further enhance their growth.

Donovan said they also plan to meet with their advisory committee for assistance, which includes more than 50 business people, community leaders and government representatives in early January.