More than a location…..

Here is that document (its 7 megs – I couldn’t condense it more) I referenced from 1996 that I wrote for the then Department of Economic Development and Tourism.  Back in the early to mid 1990s I worked for EDT and my main job was writing proposals (business cases) for companies considering expanding into New Brunswick (not retail or local service providers we were targeting customer contact centres, IT, manufacturing, etc.).

This general business case called “More than a location… A Solution!” has limited instructive value but there are some interesting things for those looking to walk down memory lane. 

When I joined the Department in 1992 there was almost no written content selling the merits of locating in New Brunswick (beyond a few basic brochures).  I came in as a guy with an MBA who had to flip burgers and serve MLAs coffee for a year because I couldn’t get a job (recession of the early 1990s  – I had an NBTel recruiter tell me they had 300 qualified candidates for every job).  I was hired for two months to do ‘spreadsheets’ – basically comparative cost modelling in Excel (or Lotus 123 I can’t remember).

Anyway, I decided to take a business case approach and that is how we ended up with documents such as this.  Virtually all of the companies that set up in New Brunswick back then ExxonMobil, Air Canada, UPS, Xerox, IBM, etc. – they all received a customized business case with detailed cost modelling (well beyond what you see here).

And 13 years later it gets dusted off and posted here.

A few of my observations:

1. Notice I reference “Mosaic” as the browser for those using the Internet and I talk about an “Internet mailbox” not an email address.  The inventor of Facebook was 10.

2. When I consider the research that went into that document I am amazed.  Nowadays, I access CANSIM online as well as 95% of the rest of my sources.  Much of the stuff in that document was pulled manually out of magazine articles and physical Statistics Canada publications. 

3. The very first KPMG study is referenced in there.  They have been doing this study every two years with considerable CDN government funding.  I am not sure if that funding remains?

4. In the section on incentives, I reference a medical research fund.  A couple of weeks ago the government announced the new Health Research Foundation  – what goes around comes around.  Hope this one leads to more serious reseach here.

5.  I guess I got it wrong on aquaculture.  I write “it shows no signs of slacking off” just a couple of years before the industry hit real problems.

6. A big section on mining opportunities.

7. Lastly, there is a whole section of several pages on the Information Highway strategy.  Most of us thought this was the Holy Grail of economic development – New Brunswick would be outfront and actually lead many of the new advancements in what we now call the ICT industry.  Read this section and the sheer naivete of the times.   Imagine the whole Silicon Valley explosion was just getting started. Could we have done more to reap a greater share?

1996 was the tipping point on population in New Brunswick, from 1996 to 2006 the population in the Census actually declined.  I can assure you there were not many people on the 5th Floor of the Centennial Building that would have forecastsed that trend.  Not that people were too worried about population stats.  Back then we felt we had too many people without work and we had to do whatever we could to find jobs for these folks.  13 years of net out-migration, declining birth rates and very low immigration (coupled with modest employment growth) and New Brunswick in 2009 actually has a low unemployment rate.

I hope I don’t get a restaining order from BNB.  I guess technically this is their document.

5 thoughts on “More than a location…..

  1. Thanks for posting this. A comprehensive sales package. Amazing how things change. Check out these advantages:

    – large pool of labour
    – quality education system
    – lowest property taxes
    – competitive communications rates

    None of which would remain competitive advantages today. Things change quickly.

    To me, this illustrates the power of focus. There is no way a region could lead in all these categories so targeting an industry or sector where we have some established, hopefully sustainable, benefits and determining which categories need adjustment to be attractive to that sector would seem a reasonable strategy. Seems to me that since the contact center initiative, economic efforts efforts have been fragmented, unorganized and unfocused.

  2. @joe

    In David’s (unrequested) defense, he “came in as a guy with an MBA who had to flip burgers and serve MLAs coffee for a year because (he) couldn’t get a job”. So he had little choice. But there are many people who are paid to make those hard choices and keep avoiding it…

  3. What choices? Am I lost?

    large pool of labour
    – quality education system
    – lowest property taxes
    – competitive communications rates

    None of which would remain competitive advantages today. Things change quickly.

    And none of these are competitive advantages? Really anybody explain this to a heavy equipment operator?
    I do know one thing, low wages = 3rd world.
    Unqualified hired, low wages. Eventually.

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