Countering fatalism

There are a lot of folks who don’t think New Brunswick can attract industries and business investment.  Our cities are too small – and forget about Northern New Brunswick.  Funny thing is, a lot of those folks are economic developers themselves.

That’s why I like Site Selection magazine’s annual ranking of micropolitan economic development (communities between 10,000 and 50,000 population).   It’s fun to see communities of 15,000, 22,000, etc. basically out in the middle of nowhere attracting new industries and growing economies.  There is no magic formula.  Communities need to build a value proposition for why it makes sense for certain industries to locate in their area.  This can include geographic advantages, natural resource-based advantages, transportation infrastructure advantages, cost advantages, labour force advantages, incentives and tax break advantages, R&D expertise, etc.   Where there are gaps in the value proposition, governments are well advised to fill them in with targeted investment.

There is also the belief that places like Moncton and Saint John can’t compete with the big metros.  We are too far from markets, too isolated, etc.  Sure.  Problem is that flies in the face of the facts.  Check out the list of to metros between 200k and 1 mill population.  Sioux City is number one.  Sioux City?  I have been there – twice.  Nice place but by definition it is the boondocks.  In recent years, the area has attracted large investments in bio-fuels, wind energy, data centers and customer contact centers. In 2008, seven area projects were either data centers or call centers.

Come on.  If New Brunswick is not attracting its share of business investment and not growing its employment base and its population it is the result of a lack of imagination and belief rather than some fundamental disadvantage that we like to hang our lack of results hat on.

9 thoughts on “Countering fatalism

  1. So what do we do to spark some interest in attracting this investment? Is it possible to send enough letters and emails to get the current government to do something about this, or do they lack the imagination to get it done? Short of taking to the streets, which I don’t think people are prepared to do (at least until it’s not so icy), how do we get some people moving on this? These smaller, isolated centres in the states must have some advisors or something, the people that are getting it done there. What if we brought them here?

  2. I completely agree with you on this. From my perspective, it seems that our main problem is our inability to focus our efforts onto industries that would be a good match for our capacities and capabilities. Once we decide on let’s say 5 industries, we refine our sales pitch, indoctrinate our ED people, business leaders, and our networks of expats that may be closer to the action..and finally ensure we are shown brightly on the radar of those site locators, I obviously oversimplify the process here, but I also believe being nimble, crafty, and aggressiive is essential in making progress. Who’s in ?

  3. And I was to Aberdeen this summer. Item one Americans are workers. Item 1A, they have to be or starve. And the next observation is they are very religious in this area. I think there is a connection.
    But number 1 I found was they have to work and we don’t.

  4. We have already witnessed how to attract investment with the contact center business; focus, leverage a competitive advantage, develop an effective and consistent sales pitch, aggresively sell, sustain support.

    We can do it again if we correct some flaws. Be brave enough to focus (even 5 targets is diluted). Focus existing ED money on true ED (forget more hockey rinks). Get the feds on board with serious money like other provinces have received. Drop the regional and political efforts with ED. Learn how to sell.

    Not suggesting it is easy; it takes hard work but it can be done.

  5. There seems to be a preference in NB for blue-collar jobs (or, in the case of call-centres, low paying white-collar jobs). Nothing wrong with that, but I think we aim too low and are not after the ‘brain’ industries that generate highly-paid jobs and spin-offs. There’s nothing wrong with NBers work ethic; we just don’t have the right focus.

  6. It’s good to see young people like Tristan thinking about the connection between citizens and government. I’ll again repeat that there is a ‘focus’, its been said again and again by government-energy infrastructure, transportation, and the ‘atlantica’ gateway concept. Problem is, NONE of those are actually the proposals that citizens have voted for or seem to want.

    It’s a POLITICAL problem, not an economic one and its good that Tristan sees the connection. Get politically involved. Taking to the streets is an option, but I’ll again mention that the Conservative party is at growth point-if they don’t listen to ‘new people’ then they won’t get elected.

    There is also the Green Party, which is just starting out. New parties are good because they show established parties that they are SO far off the concerns of voters, that voters see no option but start an entirely new party. That takes work, and if people are willing to put that much work into something, thats the kind of thing governments notice. There is also the Atlantica Party, they and the Greens so far seem to have only enough members to fill a room-which is also good in a way (obviously not as good as lots of members).

    For policies, for New Brunswick its not simply a case of picking five industries. Can anybody here name ONE economic development policy that the liberals have spearheaded since being elected? I mean besides caving into forestry multinationals. Remember, it was two years ago that Nova Scotia revamped into tax credit system for cultural industries, in NB still nothing. So even if you don’t ‘target’ an industry, you’d at least expect they’d do as much to keep up with the Jones’, I mean, how hard is it to travel three hours to shoot film in NS rather than Moncton?

    So when those things aren’t happening, you KNOW its a political problem. Without the policies, you get nothing-at least nothing economically viable. You WILL get the potash companies and zinc companies because you have zero environmental regulations and practically give the stuff away, but that’s certainly not what is meant here by economic development. This obviously is meant for Tristan, but the conversation has to ultimately go beyond ‘talking about stuff’ to ‘doing stuff’. And I agree with Tristan that the question is ‘how to get people moving on this?’ The first is obviously to craft some policies, the second is to get them to decision makers, the third is to actually get them to act.

    However, I’d disagree that the problem is that in some places ‘people have to work’. Maine does not have New Brunswick’s EI system, but they are getting hit harder by the economic crisis than New Brunswick is (at this point). Where there are no industries or services (like schools), you certainly can’t blame people for not working.

  7. Good points. We have to squash “hot” election issues like auto insurance and moose fencing and make economic development the key election issue.

  8. There’s no need to squash issues-everybody has issues, and you certainly can’t ‘shut people up’ and even more certainly can’t dictate what Irving picks as big issues. The point is to raise others. There is an election coming up in a couple years, that’s lots of time. So here’s a thought. What about a “Citizens Economic Development Council” or something like that. Anybody would be free to join, then ideas for actual policies get hashed out. The problem of course is how to choose amongst ideas. We know how AIMS chooses data-if their ‘donors’ like the ideas then that becomes a lobbying theme. The Chamber of Commerce and bodies like that choose policies based on a Board of Directors, not exactly ‘grassroots’ voting amongst business people (however, businesses usually have pretty similar issues).

    David has mentioned a few pieces of policy, but not real specific ‘legislation’ type of stuff. I like the idea of writing up a piece of legislation and saying to a politician “will you present and vote for this?” It makes it far more difficult for a politician to rhetorically dance their way out of. If you go around saying “we want to make economic development the most important election issue” the reply will no doubt be “what do the think the most important issue ALWAYS is”.

    I mention the conservatives because at this point I think it will be difficult for the Greens to actually have a campaign ready by the next election. But the big point is that if nobody forms some kind of organization that enters into the political arena, then nothing happens. I know some disagree with that, that’s fine, again, this is for people like Tristan who don’t think posting at a blog is going to cut it. I’ve followed the conservative website, and they’ve never picked up any ideas from this blog, and the liberals certainly haven’t.

    One final point to Tristan, although not popular here, I’d suggest joining the Conservation Council and any other ‘green’ organizations you can find, in fact any ‘organization’ at all with your interests, because most organizations are involved in the political process. The NBCC does HAVE economic development plans, but don’t have a lot of people to help ‘sell’ them. They are quite literally the ONLY group I know of in NB who is looking at Green energy in the way that is being discussed here (ironically). Just check out their website at

  9. Self sufficiency, New Brunswick style. Just offer to declare your town officially bilingual!

    Business New Brunswick Minister Greg Byrne will announce today government funding through the NB Growth Program in northern New Brunswick. Bathurst-based Power Precision Inc. received $100,000, the maximum alloweable under the program, to help start up and buy new equipment. Excell-Pro of Beresford received $60,000 to buy new equipment and improve productivity. Petit-Rocher’s Les Cuisines Roi Kitchens Ltée was awarded $36,333 to buy new food processing equipment. Cedar Cove Camping of Point-Verte got $30,000 to upgrade operations. Petit-Rocher’s Motel et Chalets l’Acadien sur Mer received $59,748 to build six new waterfront cottages.

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