Stay thirsty, my friends

It is growing increasingly clear to me that there is a disconnect between those paid to think about economic development in Northern New Brunswick and the actual people in Northern New Brunswick.  I am talking about tenured professors, life long bureaucrats and, yes, consultants like myself that sit in our relatively successful urban centres and pontificate about the plight of the North.

This is one of the reasons that in my report on northern New Brunswick I recommended that an economic development team be placed in Northern New Brunswick.  I also suggested a small team of researchers be set up to brainstorm innovative opportunities – and be located in the North (maybe Bathurst or Miramichi or Edmundston).

Maybe if the people involved in shaping the destiny of Northern New Brunswick were actually in Northern New Brunswick it might make them appreciate the extent of the challenges.

In the words of the most interesting man in the world, maybe they would be a little hungrier (or thirstier).

7 thoughts on “Stay thirsty, my friends

  1. There is an economic development team in Northern New Brunswick. In fact there are scores of people working on economic development. There are what five Enterprise New Brunswick regions. Each with a team of people. Then there are the BNB reps, the ACOA reps, and CBDC branches. Each has a budget, and each accesses other revenues and funds from all three levels of government. Access to money is really not an issue, its entrepreneurs we need to attract.

    I am not sure we need another level of bureaucracy, in fact, we would do well to reduce the numbers and save the money, because they justify their jobs as gatekeepers of the cash incentives that you believe are not working. Its part of the system that feeds on itself and is often quite wasteful.

    However, I do think the team of researchers is a great idea, and try to broaden people’s perspective and to inject new ideas into the pot. One of the biggest challenges in development in Northern New Brunswick is parochial politics, which you do address in your report.

    Not only North/South (which is a major issue) but between communities. (which Jacques Poitras mentions on his blog, referenced in your last post.) You can’t mention the Port of Belledune, without upsetting the Port of Dalhousie. You can’t mention an airport, because of Charlo and the Miramichi.

    So my suggestion would be to develop a team from the existing network, which could easily be downsized and become more focussed, with the addition of the researchers. and how about have a researcher in each region, and they could collaborate on their findings?

  2. ” a small team of researchers be set up to brainstorm innovative opportunities ”

    Not sure how you are defining researcher in this context – someone who is looking at other economically depressed regions and how they overcame the problems? Surely the people in ED in northern NB have already done that. If you want more than that, then a researcher per region would be unlikely to work well unless they really were a tightly knit team.

    Seems to me you’d have to start with addressing the parochialism issue – some kind of summit or banging-together-of-heads. Perhaps the entire province could benefit from that; certainly its not a problem confined to the north.

  3. Your concept sounds good but I agree with the above posters; if the dozens of ED people already in the north are not getting the job done, then reorganize and replace rather than add more complexity with yet another agency or organization.

    I am a bit surprised that the idea of engaging successful business people (there are a few) from the area has not been more prominent. We’ve all joked about the “I am from the government, I am here to help” kiss of death. A successful business person from the region would have valuable and practical input.

  4. “Perhaps the entire province could benefit from that; certainly its not a problem confined to the north.”

    Refer to Provincial Trauma Centre for more details.

  5. We don’t need new infrastructure – unless it involved some consolidation. Everyone knows the real ‘control’ over what happens in Northern NB is in Fredericton (and in a more abstract sense Ottawa). I am talking about bringing some of the functions and capacity to the north – investment attraction for one.

  6. David, I sincerely hope that you are able to convey your ideas/thoughts to the appropriate individuals in the Province’s capital. I grew up in the North and can say that there is a culture of apathy and a willingness to settle for less which is not apparent in other areas of the province. In order for the North to actually succeed we need to move away from the repatriation initiatives and focus on attracting new blood and individuals who are looking to capitalize on an opportunity.

    I truly believe that the only way the North will prosper is through direct foreign investment, with the foreign investors gaining the most, and the locals providing the labour force to fuel a successful company. Right now the North doesn’t have the population to support the proliferation of accountants, lawyers, financial advisers, etc, but a drastic increase in the population could provide the opportunity for the professional service industry to succeed through volume work alone.

  7. The solar research centre will be a good test case, but you’ll notice that even the company says it will conduct its research in Fredericton. That’s a bad sign, and if the province is going to make an investment, it should put the research in Miramichi. They had no problem moving the entire department to St. John to satisfy Irving, but if you’ve read the CBC the last couple of days its VERY clear who is running the liberal party, and its not Shawn Graham.

    The north is just an extreme version of all of NB. There are lots of people happy with the ‘status quo’, and they are right to be, since those in power are definitely advocating things get worse in order to ‘adapt’ (see the Crowley blog). Investing in the north would be partly symbolic from the province, and the fact that nothing happens there shows just what kind of hold the south has on economic development.

    For the above though, its obvious that ‘foreign investment’ has to do something, since there is no money there. The province can do SOMETHING though, but the entire world is having a tough time getting FDI, northern NB has its hands pretty much tied. Foreign money needs to come in, but theres a lot of ways that can happen. Had the economy not tanked, Fatkat may have been doing wonders, and other companies may have sprung up, in fact theres a theory that like the bust economic ‘readjustmants’ are cyclical because there are too many ‘middlemen’. Just a theory but it certainly seems to be symptomatic.

    But always remember, it only takes ONE ‘Research in Motion’ to turn things around. Unfortunately out east its names are Irving and McCain and they aren’t in the knowledge industry and have been around so long its almost counterproductive, but if you look at iphone apps, with just one you can make a pretty decent living. So if every kid knew how to program an iapp, you’d have a fully functional stay at home economy. Or writing a book, or creating a comic, or a new program, etc. Never discount what people are capable of. There was a guy who hurt his back and lost his job, he invented a new back support for mechanical work, and got it introduced to Home Hardware. Unfortunately he sold the rights, but stuff like that is easier to do than people think. With the internet its a BIG world out there. Hell, I’ve said before that if somebody set up a webcam in Kouchibouguac park I’d pay each month for a subscription, and there are LOTS of NBers out there in the world. Contrary to what you’ve read elsewhere, there has NEVER been a better opportunity to make a living from a rural or disenfranchised area than there is today.

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