Keep the focus on growth

It’s easy to get distracted when it comes to economic development.  I have seen this potential in the past few days.  I heard a presentation from the developer of the Moncton casino talking about all the jobs and tax revenue and economic activity generated from the casino.  Millions in new economic activty and taxes for government.

Then there was the study done by three of the highest priced consulting firms in Canada designed to inform government of all the jobs created and tax base associated with the convenience store industry in Atlantic Canada. I am sure that study cost at least $300,000 – why?  To have a document to take to governments.

And, of course, we have the ‘retention’ projects that are in the news lately but are a key part of government economic development efforts since the recession took hold.

None of these industries will generate much ‘new’ economic activity (i.e. economic development in the active sense of that term).  The developer of the casino admitted that the users of the casino will mostly be New Brunswickers.   If that is the case, then there is very little net new economic activity (other than the orgininal construction activity which is funded by external capital) because New Brunswickers will just be shifting their entertainment spending from ATVs and movies to the casino.  There will be a small amount of repatratiated economic activity (those who would have went to Halifax or Bangor to play in a casino) but this will be limited.

The convenience stores are ‘convenient’ – I use the one here in downtown Moncton 2-3 times a week – but obviously if I was not buying at a convenience store, I would be buying elsewhere.  It is not an economic growth engine.

And the retention funding – I have argued on a surgical basis it may be necessary – but it doesn’t generate any new economic activity (by definition it retains existing economic activity). 

Don’t get distracted.

We need, over 10, 20 and 30 years – solid economic growth, the build up of new industries with good paying jobs and dramatically increased own source generated tax revenue to limit our exposure to the ephemeral federal government transfer system.

5 thoughts on “Keep the focus on growth

  1. There is also the ‘cynical’ view that is backed up by evidence from VLT’s. Namely, that casino’s can make reliance on social programs greater by limiting people’s money. While it no doubt will have some tourist money and wealthier clients, you get primarily the same kinds of people who are lined up at convenience stores playing 649. That doesn’t even get into poverty and addiction issues. New Brunswick is one of the WORST provinces for addiction services, again, you want ‘conservative’ there is the complete lack of almost ANY social supports. It’s not a coincidence that in europe people are not allowed to gamble in the casino’s of their own hometown. In some countries people are given swipe cards which only allow them to gamble for a set amount of time. Now, who here actually thinks New Brunswick is going to be that kind of proactive on gambling policies?

  2. My thoughts when I saw the C Store story were similar – why do we need a study showing the benefits of stores that already exist and serve a market. I imagine this sort of data will be used where stores want to raise concerns about gambling and tobacco; it’s not like we’ll decide to build a convinience store on every block because they are economic drivers.

  3. After checking out the study I see your point, its too bad Mr. Campbell couldn’t get some clients like that. It very much looks like “we want you to study our industry and talk about how important it is”. I think the rural nature of the maritimes plays into that, in urban areas convenience stores aren’t that essential. We have a convenience store which is actually no closer than a mall. Its hours are WORSE than the grocery store. The only reason I go there is simply because they are usually run by immigrant families and its good to spread the spending around.

    That the maritimes would have ten percent of the convenience stores in canada is a surprise. I know in oromocto west we were practically ‘rural’ and the convenience store was essential. Now those residentsare almost as close to Tim Hortons, Sobeys and Canadian Tire. So I think they are really playing this up WAY too much. The ‘importance’ of convenience stores is marginal at best. They have few employee’s, low stock turnover, and essentially are tobacco and lottery stations.

  4. That’s just calling a spade what it is. What would be more interesting is a look at some new initiatives and what some convenience store owners are doing to stay ahead of the curve. I remember reading about one rural convenience store that built an ‘itunes’ box for local musicians and helped market them. One thing about convenience stores, they often change hands, but they rarely go bankrupt.

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