Look to Halifax

I know that some snide remarks will be forthcoming but I still think that we should be impressed with the financial services back office sector development strategy in Halifax right now. While Premier MacDonald was ringing the NYSE bell on Wall Street, a major deal was getting put to bed:

Citco, the leading global provider to the hedge fund industry, has chosen Nova Scotia again. The international financial services company is making Halifax one of its key locations for Citco’s industry-specific technology development, creating up to 325 new jobs over the next six years. Positions will range from technical support to software and application development.

The province, through Nova Scotia Business Inc., is investing in the expansion with a payroll rebate set at a maximum $7 million over six years. The rebate will be invested incrementally as the company achieves hiring targets. The Department of Economic Development is investing $1.47 million to support start-up costs and training.

This is tailor-made economic development in the new 2008 context. Nova Scotia is not selling cheap labour and not attracting low wage jobs. These are $70k+ jobs that pay serious taxes into the provincial coffers. And it proves that a highly targeted effort with highly professional people can lead to good results. Halifax wasn’t on anyone’s radar until Lund and the gang came calling.

Actually I am quite disallusioned with these trips to ‘Toronto’. All the politicians make them and get relatively little out of them (IMO). The problem is that most of the Bay Streeters already have well formed opinions of Atlantic Canada as a backwater sucking on the hind teet of Confederation. Maybe Lund is right. Maybe the ‘trips’ should be to Bermuda or Helsinki or Dubai.

Don’t get me wrong. I have written before and extensively that corporate Canada should be investing more in Atlantic Canada – their little part for the good of the country. But these days you are just as likely to see a GM Canada closing its Moncton warehouse and moving the jobs back to central Canada as you are some Bay Street firm setting up a new facility here.

For the most part – and there are some exceptions – corporate Canada is investing almost exclusively in the 4-5 major urban markets. They will put retail stores in Atl. Canada and offices that absolutely have to be here to get access to the local market but to put manufacturing here, IT development, back offices, etc. – very unlikely.

If corporate Canada continues to treat this region like an annoying hinterland, maybe the Bermudans will be more receptive or the Finns or the Danes.