Will economic development follow?

I kind of liked this article in the Bangor Daily News about Saint John and some of its economic development efforts.

Right up until, of course, they had to spoil it with this little snippet:

The Brookings Institute’s 2007 study of Maine essentially reached the same conclusion: Focus on polishing the assets that make Maine a great place to live, work and recreate, and economic development will follow.

I don’t understand why people have to be so linear in their thinking.   Making Maine a great place to live, work and recreate is a worthy objective and does link into economic development efforts but economic development will never just ‘follow’.    But for some reason that seems to be the conclusion of all the bright lights around this region.  You know what I am talking about.  Let me refresh your memory.

We are building this road and economic development will follow.

We are investing in broadband Internet and economic development will follow.

We are cutting this tax and economic development will follow.


In my experience, economic development never just follows.  In fact, I think it should be the opposite.  We develop a serious and credible economic development strategy and then we start thinking about what we need to do to achieve that strategy.

8 thoughts on “Will economic development follow?

  1. If those three p[lus fiscal responsibility were the provincial pillars, hopefully the feds had some plan for the region (either through legislation or spending), like what happened with Harris and Chretien.

    A good balance.

  2. The problem is strategies are all well and good, and I have seen lots of strategies. Saw another one yesterday. They are they same things I have been hearing forever in my region, and so I don’t know what’s going to change.

    “We develop a serious and credible economic development strategy and then we start thinking about what we need to do to achieve that strategy.”

    This is not new, and I have heard that line so many times I now don’t believe it.

    The problem with these strategies are they are limited to being promoted to the hundreds of people who work for the economic development acronyms (i.e ACOA, RDC, CBDC, etc) a few business leaders, who have benefited from government investment and access to power, and the people who really will make the difference don’t even know what these strategies exist. All they want to know is if there is a grant, subsidy or forgivable loan available.

  3. Id be interested in hearing your take on Denis Losier’s most recent publication from the New Brunswick Business Council. It seems to be a very rational approach, yet it also mentions the construction of highways as part of the plan. Granted the highway plays a predetermined role in the development of very specific industry in the Northern portion of the province

  4. I actually just realized that you may have been the author of the report in question. If so, good job. It was a very methodical and strategic approach to revitalizing the North

  5. First of all I am in a bit of a conflict of interest because I wrote the report on behalf of the Council. Having said that, I think Denis has a good understanding of what needs to happen in Northern NB and should be listened to. We didn’t delve deeply into the issue of road transportation but I believe the consensus was that it would be better to put passing lanes on the existing highway around the top of the province in the short to medium term (5-10 years) than wait 50 years for a theoretical four lane highway around the top.

    I also want to point out that the Council’s report emphasized the importance of the business communty taking leadership of the region’s economic development. Not in a parochial or municipal-level way but as a broader region coming together. I realize that people are tired of all the rhetoric but if the government took most of those recommendations seriously they would be on path, I believe, towards a serious change in direction in the North. I am biased, of course, because I wrote the thing but I really think we need a jolt of action up there. Incrementality won’t do. Download the report at the council website and let me know what you think.

  6. Infrastructure is realtively easy, produces readily observable results, and creates jobs in the short-term. From a political standpoint, what’s not to like?

    The ‘plan’ clearly needs federal / provincial coordination, but there is little point unless the plan is fundamentally sound. NB does not have the political clout that more populous provinces have, so we are less likely to get the feds attention. Its NB and NBers that need to come with the strategy and present it to the feds, then find a way to get the feds onboard. The feds are happy to dole out dollars: NB needs to find a way to get those dollars working for that strategy.

  7. In the document ‘Northern NB’ is defined as Gloucester, Madawaska, Northumberland, Restigouche and Victoria counties.

    Out of the 25 member companies of the Business Council, there are five (5) members that are from the counties mentioned above – and out of the five, there are heavy liberal ties. (Atcon, Groupe Savoie, St. Isidore Asphalt)

    You provide good examples of incentives (i.e. Northern Ontario, Alabama, New Mexico, Wisconsin to name a few) These are actual programs with a purpose for growth for a given jusrisdiction. Not rewarding someone for voting a certain way or sending checks left and right to the same players.

    There are big problems up North and something needs to be done. Let’s hope that Denis Losier’s attempt is not linked to a future political run when our feeble leader is done. The last thing we need is another McKenna cronie controlling everything and directing all the money politically. We really need to depoliticize, create real programs for economic growth and have transparency in the government.

  8. Read the report and something you mentioned that I think could be further emphasized is strong leadership.

    Leadership does not mean crying the blues and maximizing the handouts. It means taking ownership of problems and executing solutions.

    You refer to the Moncton revolution which is a good benchmark. There was a crisis of enormous level with Eaton’s, CN shops etc closures. Business and community leaders assembled and worked as a team to identify solutions. The Greater Moncton Economic Commission and Ron Gaudet were well supported by community business leaders who were ready to contribute as needed.

    The north, as you clearly presented, is in a similar, perhaps more complex crisis than Moncton. Unfortunately, meaningful community leadership has yet to materialize. Perhaps it will be provoked into action by this report and the recent media attention. This should not be an opportunity to fill the pockets of political friends and create monuments and lucrative employment opportunities for a privileged few; it has to be an opportunity to create a sustainable future for a region. Effective, local leadership is required or there will not be success.

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