The long term view

Sometimes it takes an outsider to crystalize things on an issue.  I spent an hour this afternoon talking with a U.S. researcher who is studying efforts to lure jobs and investment from one province to another in Canada.  We were chatting about the McKenna years and his highly visible efforts – in the national press – to attract industry.

He told me he completed an exhaustive search of the Lexis Nexis news database and the references to efforts to attract industry to New Brunswick dried up after McKenna left in 1997.  He wondered why and asked me to provide examples post-McKenna.  I thought about it and came up with a few like Molson but on the whole there hasn’t been much activity in the past decade or more.

I did an analysis a few years ago of every BNB press release related to companies moving into New Brunswick or national/international companies here that had expanded with BNB help.  If I recall correctly the period was around 2000 to 2005.  During that timeframe, other than some call centres (VAS out of Chicago dominated) – mostly expansions of firms already here – there wasn’t much in the way of new activity.  I think it was about 85% of all new jobs were call centre expansions.

Since then there have been a few but not many.  A quick scan of BNB press releases today reveals the vast majority of effort is going to retain the companies we have in the face of the recession (retention jobs). 

It’s a tough time to be attracting investment to be sure but many of McKenna’s biggest projects were started in the recession of the early 1990s.

It was interesting to get an American researcher’s perspective on this stuff.

9 thoughts on “The long term view

  1. I think that’s an excellent point.

    We should be making noise about New Brunswick. Not just about attracting business (that’s the way to sound like one of those insurance agents who won’t leave you alone) but about the benefits of NB generally. We don’t. We just don’t do it.

  2. “his highly visible efforts”

    I suppose the ‘NB buzz’ is at least partly attributable to McKenna’s way of doing things. But I wonder how much is due to demographics within the civil service. Did McKenna hire a bunch of fired-up youngsters to help invigorate NBs image? Did they then get old and cynical, such that, by the time McKenna left, they had lost their spark? Or were they shuffled out when McKenna was replaced? In any event, its hard to attract new business from outside when few outside know you exist.

  3. Lol, what a bright bunch! The Benefits of NB have been spread for years by the thousands who left, and in the past 40 years by the ones who had to leave. Next year as equalization payments are cut by 15%, for starters, more of NB will be spread, plus should end the multimillion dollar Premiers NB produces!

  4. It is okay to have a brand for the province in the form of our Premier. Like him or hate him when Mckenna spoke, business people listened. When McKenna called, business people answered. When McKenna asked, he usually got what he asked for. There is lots of evidence to support this but perhaps the most powerful is the high demand for him to serve on large corporate boards such as UPS.

    I am sure there were a few people that helped him out but at the end of the day it is all about strong and effective leadership. We simply have not had any since McKenna and our economic development efforts have declined to the point where government is merely a bank of last resort.

  5. Can someone die from laughing? And where is your hero? Unelectable for some reason eh? I think that point is pretty telling!

  6. Not a matter of like or hate, two archaic expressions, just facts!

    The U.S researchers did ok eh? More call center jobs gone. And just a start. There is a problem. For those living beyond the means of common sense and expecting it to continue. Many have worked hard to drive us back to the 60’s. Then we will, again, revert back to basics, in education, and do it all over again.

  7. I can certainly appreciate that not everyone liked McKenna. That is the fear most leaders have; making decisions and taking action instantly produces supporters and objectors. Overcome such fear is the stuff of great leaders.

    The fear of polarizing the population has led to a generation of politicians that have determined that doing nothing is the safest way to survive. Sadly, they are right as voters continue to be risk adverse and change adverse.

    This works fine until things decline to a point of catastrophic crisis. I would suggest that with a billion dollar deficit and major reliance on federal transfer payments which are about to be reduced, we are approaching a crisis situation.

    In a crisis situation, we will learn that strong leadership, that is a leader willing to make change and willing to make decisions, is critical. Once again, there will be many that do not like such a leader and the cycle will likely repeat. Hopefully, a leader that can have lasting benefits will emerge during the crisis. People are complaining about job losses for jobs McKenna created 20 years ago. We can only hope that we can secure a leader committed to economic development that will create new jobs that will last the next 20 years.

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