Don’t fall into the trap, Fowler

David Shipley in the TJ has a story entitled “Fearing for FatKat’s future” in which the company’s CEO says New Brunswick’s tax incentives are not competitive with other provinces. But there is another line in the piece that caught my eye:

“From what I hear, they’re trying to lure big studios to the province,” he said. “But we have a studio here that’s bringing in millions of dollars.”

Gene Fowler shouldn’t fall into the trap fell into by a pile of other technology firms in New Brunswick. A lot of eLearning firms complained that the province was trying to bring in the big guys as well.

New Brunswick needs to get some critical mass in the animation biz and that will take a mix of big studios and local firms. Orphaned animation studios in the Miramichi is not a recipe for economic development success.

Fowler should be arguing that a more competitive tax credit program would be advantageous for both local and national/international firms. He should be out helping sell the province. That “rising tide rises all boats” thing.

Cloistering away in the ‘Chi and hoping for the best is not an effective way to promote economic development.

The province needs to decide if we are to have an animation cluster or not. If so, it needs to align its investment attraction, trade development, entrepreneurial development, training/education, R&D and related service development activity.

That’s our biggest problem. We have way too many onesy and twosy industries. A chocolates plant here, an animation studio there, a cancer research organization here, an eLearning firm over there. We need to get some clustering happening.

I have talked with a number of firms that have candidly told me they don’t want the province attracting competitors. They intuitively understand the importance of clustering but they worry about employee raiding and upward pressure on wages. I understand this and don’t want to be to judgemental. But at the same time, all of the evidence shows that FatKat would have far more chance of success – long term – in the middle of a well formed animation cluster than an orphan on the periphery.