There is this economic developer I know that I swear sits around most of the day thinking up ideas. Ways to trying and stimulate economic development in his community. Could innovative oil shale extraction techniques in Albania work in his community? Could we do innovative things in the biofuels area? Cripes, the guy’s website is in German and Dutch because he has a hunch the region could attract immigrant investors from Europe.

In my opinion that’s what economic developers should do. Not sit around saying why things can’t or won’t work but actually sit around dreaming up innovative ideas that just might work – given political will and community engagement. Consider my previous position on Bricklin. I consider this to have been one of Premier Hatfield’s greatest achievements because at least he tried. There hasn’t been an effort like that since and the way things are going will likely never be.

For example, think about the ‘energy hub’ concept in Saint John. It’s about infrastructure. Industry. Building the training infrastructure. It has its own lobby group. There’s research going on and more promised. Even the labour attraction strategies for Saint John are targeted towards this group of workers. Cripes, even the brand for the whole city is tied up around energy.

But my question is why can we only see this model when it involves natural resources or some very large private sector player already in place?

Why can’t we graft the ‘energy hub’ concept onto the ‘financial back office hub’ in Moncton? Or the animation hub in Miramichi? Or the e-security hub in Fredericton?

I never understood this. I guess we can see it when it is anchored with physical assets like refineries and power plants but we can’t when it is anchored with intellectual assets.

Maybe we should look seriously at this energy hub model. Take Miramichi. Instead of $5 million to UPM to get Lord through the election (it worked – but it didn’t if you know what I mean), why not $5 million to set up an animation research lab and reach out and attract matching funds from Microsoft or Nintendo? Why not make the vision for the NBCC in Miramichi to become a world leader in college level animation training? Why not partner with NSCAD on the creative side? Why not? Why not develop a strategy specifically targeting diaspora animators located outside? Why not?

Just hanging out the shingle and putting a “seek and find” officer in the Miramichi will do nothing. Having a clear and focused vision to build the Miramichi into an animation hub might – and I stress might – have some chance of success.

And if it fails so be it.

In the words of the great philosopher Neil Young, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.