New economic development strategy for the North

I like this new strategy – it is clear in its objectives and I think the opportunities identified have merit – the real challenge will be marshalling the resources needed to get it done.

There are a couple of very surprising weak spots.  The first is the strategy doesn’t mention anything about urban Northern NB and all of the targeted sectors are really about rural areas in the North – with the possible exception of tourism.  Of course, the authors of the plan will say that rural success will have urban benefits but I think they really missed the boat on this issue.  Northern New Brunswick needs to have strong (albeit small) urban areas. 

The second weak spot is there is not a single industry mentioned herein that is in the white collar/professional economy of the 21st century.  We can’t just give up on this – it’s tied to the urban strategy mentioned above.   Don’t get me wrong, I think the primary potential is in manufacturing and resources sectors and it is true that I have preached focus, focus, focus for years but something tells me that there are some niche opportunities that could be exploited for economic development.

Take this line from page 8 of the report – “bilingualism is one of the great strengths in attracting business to the region”.   I realize people like to use this as a throw in but sometimes we have to think through what we say.

If bilingualism is a ‘great’ strength (and I believe it to be true) why aren’t we targeting opportunities that leverage it?

But on the whole this could be a giant leap forward for the North.

9 thoughts on “New economic development strategy for the North

  1. If modular fabrication and minerals are going to be target industries, the areas between Miramichi and Bathurst should be the targeted “urban areas”. The communities are most ideally located on the Miramichi Bay and the Bay of Chaleur, which gives them far greater access to the remainder of New Brunswick than Edmunston and Campbellton. Further, the recent developments in Miramichi (Umoe Solar, the gasification facility, and he re-opening of the former Weyerhaeuser mill) positions Miramichi of one of the stronger growth sectors in the north, and meets the bilingual needs of this initiative quite nicely.

    As someone who will be relocating to the north in the very near future, I am very pleased with and optimistic about this report.

  2. This is a sad reality of the world we live in these days. This is the most interesting new initiative proposed for the North in years and that is the public response? I had hoped we would have been able to reset the public discourse about economic development.

  3. I’m not sure what level of public participation will be available, but as an individual who will be a stakeholder in the Northern business community, I will be making all efforts to be involved from the ground level. I agree that the lack of a white collar initiative is troubling, however it seems that the few white collar business already in existence will benefit by the increase in industry and a potentially larger client base. The success of my profession is directly related to the economy, so I am incredibly enthusiastic about this initiative.

    Miramichi seems to be somewhat of an afterthought in the proposal. Much of the large industrial proposals are in francophone areas and will fail to capitalize on the existing infrastructure in a more “urban” environment.

  4. “The second weak spot is there is not a single industry mentioned herein that is in the white collar/professional economy of the 21st century. ”

    I get that those are the more valuable jobs, but is it reasonable to target those industries if you don’t have the people to fill them and aren’t likely to have people to fill them in the long-run? Wouldn’t it be better to have the white collar jobs (engineers and managers) feeding off the other easier to establish/promote industries(i.e. modular construction)?

  5. I think Mike E. makes a good point and, interestingly, I saw a presentation from ROC Consulting last year where they outlined the linkages between the modular construction industy and the engineering and specialized technical workforce in places like Fredericton and Saint John. In effect, they argued that done right this industry could have ecosystem benefits across the province.

  6. I can appreciate why you like this plan; I have gone back and read your report from last summer and much of it is reflected in this new plan. One exception is with respect to research facilities where you clearly encouraged partnerships and collaboration rather than new infrastructure; the new plan seems to propose a new center of excellence with every page turn. I wonder if industry was consulted about their needs for these centers?

    There are no easy answers or magic bullets but after reading through these documents, it somehow feels like a laundry list of ideas and actions. Some prioritization and focus might help in obtaining early wins.

    One thing that is not entirely obvious in either plan is the value proposition the region offers prosepective employers, investors and customers. Hopefully it is more than low cost labour. The modular fabrication idea seems to be the proposed new focus but I am unclear of the competitive advantage; an abundance of fabrication and metal working capacity is unfortunetely an ‘advantage’ that many regions in North America can claim after the devastation in manufacturing. What advantages do we offer over our competition?

    I do like the comemnts regarding the north getting involved and taking ownership of the challenge. Hopefully a local leader or champion will emerge and make some meaningful and sustainable progress.

  7. It has been reported that this plan will be funded $600 million over 3 years. Do you think the 2700 job target is low for that size of investment?

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