We need more from New Brunswick’s ICT industry

My TJ column tomorrow discusses the risks associated with a prolonged period of weak economic growth.  From 1997 to 2006, GDP growth was a healthly 3.2 percent per year in the province but since then it has dropped to a paltry 0.9 percent per year – the worst growth rate in Canada.

When I was going through the GDP by industry data I was disheartened to see that GDP growth from ICT has dropped from an annual average growth of $42 million per year between 1997 and 2006 to 14.9 million per year between 2006 and 2011.

This is a problem.  ICT should be one of the high growth areas of the economy.

Now I read that the NRC is cutting its staff in the province.

I think the luminaries for this industry should be convened and asked bluntly how to grow this sector.   Are there opportunities to stimulate more local ICT entrepreneurship?  Should we attract ICT entrepreneurs from afar (as I argued last week)?  Should we work even harder to figure out how to attract the big multinationals?  Should we micro-target areas such as data centres?   We need to – warning terrible cliche ahead – think outside the box on this.  The luminaries should be asked to think beyond our borders about how we can grow this sector.

People chafe at throwing big bucks at development but there must be other alternatives.  How about using personal income tax breaks to become attractive to high end ICT talent?  How about making it attractive for students to get into ICT training?   Can immigration be a way to stimulate ICT investment?  Do we have surplus baseload power now that Lepreau is back online that could be sold to data centres cheaply rather than given to Maine Governor LePage for a song?


3 thoughts on “We need more from New Brunswick’s ICT industry

  1. “The luminaries should be asked to think beyond our borders about how we can grow this sector.”

    Does it actually matter what the ‘luminaries’ think or say? It only matters if the prov and fed govts are listening and take appropriate actions. What are the odds on that?

    Given the silence from the provincial govt on the NRC losses (and given their past silence on other federal job losses here), I think it is clear that neither they nor the feds believe that govt has any role to play in taking some direct action to stimulate that sector.

    Comments by Higgs on the radio this AM showed a complete lack of forward thinking and mindset stuck in the 50s – a refusal to consider anything outside of natural resource extraction as a source of growth.

  2. Your piece on immigration and economic development provides a good example of things that have to be done.

    Unfortunately, our immigration strategy and its implementation suffers from a lack of focus, a lack of connexion with regional realities and actors (labor market, businesses, municipalities, etc.).

    I’ll give you an example. It took months and months of negotiations (should I say years) with the Population Growth Secretariat to implement a resource centre for new immigrants in the North-West part of the province. Central to the debate? Secretariat was not okay with the idea that Entreprise Madawaska and Entreprise Grand-Falls region should host the service in partnership with municipalities, NGO’s,…

    Now, one can argue that an immigrant resource centre doesn’t provide only “business advices”. That’s exactly true and that’s the reason why the proposal included working with partners for the implementation for the service.

    For us, the strategic question was simple : Who should be in the driver seat?

    Our immigration strategy has to move from a “humanitarian” perspective to an “economic” perspective (international students, labor market, entrepreneurs – international students being probably the most strategic aspect of it for the ICT sector development).

  3. I just want to mention one name-Gary Wills. When I first moved to the Waterloo region a decade and a half ago, RIM was just a building. Gary Wills was a guy who had a blog. He was big on IT, and basically started an organization pulling all the sectors and government together. I’m not going to say he’s singly responsible or anything, but his early organization really got the community working together. And just so you know, Waterloo and Kitchener are two cities that are literally joined at the hip-meaning there were a LOT of actors to pull together to speak with one voice. And they do, probably a little too much so, but thats another issue.

    When you’ve got so many people arguing that government shouldn’t be in business AT ALL, and when you’ve got industry basically trying to wrench what has been public into the private sphere, its crazy to think that government is going to ‘lead the way’ on any of these issues.

    Like David says, it needs to be the ICT industry itself. Unfortunately they have a tough enough time staying in business-because I think the most I’ve seen from them is an annual gold tournament, which really doesn’t accomplish much. I have noticed that Gogii games is now spreading out into ‘marketing’ of games rather than development of them. That COULD be a golden opportunity, like I’ve said before, you can buy Multimedia Fusion Developer for under $200 bucks and start making games straight away. The guy who runs Gogii essentially had to almost move to the Seattle area to build up the connections-which is really what we are talking about here-networking. He now HAS the connection, so a very easy step one is just to get the knowledge to people of how easy game programming is, and where they can go to get help marketing it. That takes almost NO resources to do.

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