Planning your own demise

Several people sent me emails about the NSBI article in the TJ on Friday. The truth of the matter is that BNB thinks it has done a fine job of attracting industry to New Brunswick. Look at the spokesperson’s comments.

Business New Brunswick spokesman Ryan Donaghy says the department is not considering adopting the NSBI model. He says the department is in the process of establishing a dedicated investment unit that promises to be aggressive in drawing new business to the province.Business New Brunswick already boasts a strong record of investment attraction, says Donaghy, pointing to IBM, Xerox, Rogers, UPS, and Molson Breweries as examples of firms the department has been able to lure.

He fails to mention that UPS announced they were coming to New Brunswick in 1993 (15 years ago), Xerox announced in 1995 (13 years ago), IBM in 1994, Rogers in 2000 and even Molson announced in 2004 – almost four years ago. BNB spends almost $40 million a year (its budget), you would think their PR guy would have a couple of recent examples.

The bottom line is that you can’t get change from within. It doesn’t work that way. Take the Dept. of Energy, for example. Let’s see a show of hands. How many people think that if the government went to the Department of Energy and asked if it would be a good idea to move the whole department to Saint John, how many internal bureaucrats would have said “Gee, now why didn’t we think of that?” Anyone? Bueller?

It’s the same with any government department. I remember a long interview with Eloi Duguay when he took over BNB as DM a few years ago. He listed all this stuff. Very little got done.

It’s my experience that if you want change, you have to impose it. You can consult internal folks but ultimately, no one internally is going to say we have been doing a ‘bad’ job. No one is going to recommend their own demise. It’s common sense.

My own opinion is that the process of selling New Brunswick as a location for industry can’t be inside a government department. There is too much bureaucracy. It’s too slow to react. You need seven signatures to get a letter sent out. I think the economic development department should be about policy development, research, sector development, liaison with other departments, etc. But the development folks, the guys/gals out there trying to get it done, should be at arm’s length.

My final point here is that the more folks talk about BNB and the need for change, the more the department will circle the wagons and resist it. I’m glad the TJ is writing such stories, but I think that a lot of these guys take it personally. If you say BNB needs to change, they think you mean ‘you’ need to change.

Imagine trying to tie remuneration to results, as one example. What government department or agency would try that?