It’s half past 12, do you know where your diaspora is?

I don’t know if you have heard the advertisments on the radio but there is a firm offering a GIS program that will let you ‘track’ your teenagers where ever they go without them know. As a dad with an almost teenaged girl…… Nah. You gotta have some trust. Besides, the thought of me in front of the computer watching a little GIS tracker move around the screen is a bit creepy to say the least.

But it did get me thinking. How many economic developers know where their economic diaspora is? Did you know the head of one of the top 5 US banks is from Saint John? Did you know that one of the heads of the top investment banks is from Saint John? Did you know that a top pharma boss in Montreal is from Moncton? The Vice Chairman of BMO? The Vice Chairman of TD? (Yes, you knew this one). How about the President of Lexus Canada? The former President of Saturn? A former senior executive at Microsoft?

I am not recommending a GIS tracker but I think this is very important. I recently saw a study showing that something like 80% of Fortune 500 executives invest in their home towns. A good recent example of this is Cianbro’s announcement of a 500 person manufacturing facility in Brewer, Maine (this is doubly interesting to me because I was the author of a report on the redevelopment of that site in 2005). The head of Cianbro is from that town.

Now, how many of the folks I mention above have invested in their home towns/province? How many of the 500,000+ people that have moved out of New Brunswick since 1976 hold middle and senior executive positions and could be in a position to recommend the company set up in New Brunswick?

If you are an economic developer and you don’t know your diaspora, you should just ask. Send out a note to your residents for a list of expatriates that moved out of the village/town/city in the past 20 years or so. Build a database and gently being to ping it. Some will spurn you. Some will put you off but some, like the head of Cianbro, might take an interest in their old town.

New segment:
In deference to all the TV cooking shows, I am starting a new segment called the “Whine and Cheese”.

Recommended Whine with this blog:
Back in the 1990s, when I told an high ranking economic dev. official in New Brunswick that the Vice President of a major manufacturing firm was an ex-New Brunswicker, he said “why would firm x ever want to locate in New Brunswick?” Ouch.

Recommended Cheese with this blog:
Having influence in a major corporation sometimes doesn’t mean much. Frank McKenna was the former chairman of CanWest. When he was appointed to that position, I had high hopes that New Brunswick would get more jobs – maybe start building a real cluster of media activity – but alas I was very wrong. Yesterday CanWest announced they were scaling back the already meagre efforts they have in the Maritimes. I know Frank is no longer with CanWest but…..