Municipal level economic development

Monctonlandlord asked for my ideas regarding municipalities and their efforts around economic development. This is something that would require some serious thinking but my initial thoughts are below (with special effects for your reading pleasure).

Picture the scene:

….Knuckles cracking, smoke coming out of ears….

Municipal economic development recommendations (widely applicable but need that grain of salt for flavouring):

1. Support your regional economic development agency (that’s how it’s done in New Brunswick and there’s no reason to buck it – if you don’t like what they are doing, have your say).

2. Spend at least 5% of your annual operating budget directly on economic development. Be careful of not duplicating efforts of either your Enterprise or the province.

3. Be Investor Ready. Have sites identified of all shapes and sizes. Have megasites available/identified even if they are outside your municipal limits. If the province/your Enterprise brings business to town – you must be ready. Have a SWAT team of professionals ready to serve the potential investor (Involve regional planning here). Have a wide variety of statistical/demographic information. Focus on the livability of your town/city as this is increasingly where the differentiation lies.

4. Lobby for much more emphasis at the province on economic development. Use your voice on this thing.

5. Make your city/town livable. Do whatever you can to make it a dynamic, vibrant can-do place. Identify and address gaps and have a plan – short/long to address them.

6. Carve out a niche or two. Saint John should be known for “xx”, Moncton for “yy” and Tracadie for “zz”. There’s a lot of competition out there. You need to stand out in a crowd.

7. Stop saying “that’s not my responsibility” or “that’s not in our mandate”. If it’s an issue of importance to your community – it should be in your mandate. Environment, community health, transportation, infrastructure, attracting industry, attracting people, if these aren’t in your ‘mandate’ – they should be.

8. Elect a dynamic Mayor. He/she doesn’t have to be a metrosexual dynamo. But he/she should be passionate about the city/town and have a clear vision of where he/she wants to take it during their mandate. It’s a bit weird, I know, but towns/cities seem to take on the character and personality of the mayor over time. A dynamic and passionate mayor, over time, will translate into a dynamic and passionate city. Think this one through. Think of your long standing mayors and ask yourself if they were aligned with the character of the city/town.

9. Build a vibrant downtown. I don’t care how big or small your community is, “as goes the downtown, so goes the town”. All communities need a heart. A centre. A place for coming together. And that should be your downtown.

10. Partner. With local municipalities. There is little need for 239 (or whatever) cities, towns, villages and local service districts in New Brunswick. We have a municipal unit per 3,000 people in New Brunswick. It’s ridiculous. Push for amalgamation where appropriate. Do we really need a ‘Moncton Parish’ with 8,000 people living in it and no municipal governance? However, in the absence of real leadership on this issue, partner with any and all municipalities where it makes sense. You have more shared interests than differences. Get over petty local politics and do the right thing for citizens.

Any more than that, you will have pay 🙂