Going global

As you know I have been calling for New Brunswick and/or Atl. Canada as a whole to have sales guys/gals in key foreign markets. And it now appears someone agrees with me.

It always seemed a bit bizarre to me that between BNB, ACOA, NRC, the Enterprises, Industry Canada and city-level economic development organizations we have over 600 people involved in ‘economic development’ and not one person actually in a market where the ‘trade’ and ‘investment’ sources are located. Of course Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia have international offices in many countries – I was told Quebec has about 100 people in France alone.

So, even if you adjust for NB’s smaller size, we should still have folks in key markets – not mamby pampy patronage appointments but hard hitting sales guys/gals preferrably that speak the local language and know the local markets (although that is optional – I’d rather have someone with fire in the belly from Bouctouche than a lame duck native thinking they can milk NB for $100k per year for fun).

But the real question is where do you put these offices. The Premier goes to China and now he wants an office in China. I guess he had to see it to believe it. But as he rightly pointed out everyone is in China – in droves.

My opinion is that you have to run this thing through a variety of filters. What is the purpose? If it is trade that is one set of potential markets. If it is investment attraction that is another set of potential markets. If it is a combination, that is another set.

For example, if you want to attract companies in the green energy business, you might want to have an office in Scandinavia. If you want sell more NB commodities to Asia, you might want an office in China. If you want to become a nearshore IT hub for North America, you might want an office in Bangalore to pursue the rapidly globalizing Indian IT industry. If you want to align with the Federal government’s ‘Americas’ focus, you may want to put an office in Argentina or Brazil.

If you also have an immigration focus, you may want to put an office in the U.K. If you want to go hard into the IT sector you may want an office in Silicon Valley or how about Toronto?

The point is that the process needs to be rationally developed, properly funded, properly staffed, properly mandated and given time to work.

My own opinion – just an opinion – is that about half of the trade and investment officers should be in key foreign markets. Mostly co-located with the Canadian government in those markets to cut down on costs.