Develop Nova Scotia: A good place to start

I wasn’t familiar with Develop Nova Scotia until recently and I still only know what I see on the website.  Its mandate is “To lead sustainable development of high potential property and infrastructure to drive inclusive economic growth in Nova Scotia.”

It seems to be focused only on developing real estate and infrastructure.  Its project list includes:

Queen’s Marque
Internet for Nova Scotia Initiative
Peggys Cove Master Plan
Big Boat Shed
Zwicker Wharf
Dartmouth Cove Master Plan
Harbour Islands Visitor Experience Strategy
Lunenburg Waterfront Master Plan
Boardwalk North
Nathan Green Square
Bedford Waterfront Lands
Telford Bridge
Dartmouth Harbourwalk
Sands at Salter
Sackville Landing

Coming back to my meta-theme of economic development focusing on developing a community’s unique or strong assets and attributes, real estate and geographic location are obvious examples.  I think a concentrated focus like this makes sense.  But I think we should not restrict the focus to prime real estate (although prime real estate is a really good asset and, for example,  I don’t know why there is no public sector focus on developing the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy for tourism investment opportunities.  A few resorts and cottage clusters along there wouldn’t kill the place.)

Why wouldn’t we take the same thoughtful, deliberate developmental approach to industrial clusters?  To tourism development opportunities?  To the development of a specific natural resource?  To the attraction of targeted immigrant entrepreneurs (in cybersecurity or farming, for example)?  To the attraction of international students?  To the leveraging of specific R&D capabilities at the local university? These are all ‘products’ that can be packaged up and sold – if there is a strong ROI to do it.

Most economic developers will respond that “we do this” – at least in a few instances – but I would argue that very few – if any -see this as an organizing principle for economic development.

But if you aren’t trying to clarify the value proposition and the industries that your community should be really, really attractive for investment – who is?

If you are not targeting entrepreneurs to take advantage of a specific opportunity that benefits from your assets and assets as a community, who is?  You happy leaving this to chance?  Then welcome to structural underperformance.

There is information asymmetry between the opportunities in your community or province and the businesses and entrepreneurs that might be able to profitably exploit those opportunities to the benefit of them and you.

You need to fill that gap, economic developer.