Growing Pains: A conversation with the NB Biz Council’s Adrienne O’Pray

Matt and I had another good conversation this week.  This time Adrienne O’Pray from the New Brunswick Business Council was on the hot seat.  There is a lot of focus on getting Main Street back to health (restaurants, hair stylists, pet groomers, etc.) but in the longer run our export-based sectors are even more important to the health and strength of the economy. We talked with Adrienne about this and she seems to be quite optimistic – at least about her members which are NB-based firms most of whom have been in business for a long time.  She talked about these firms having ‘grit’ and being able to power their way through.  She remains focused on longer term issues such as productivity, labour supply, etc.  as the key to economic growth.

The initial data on manufacturing exports is not good.  In March 2020 the value in New Brunswick dropped by 24% compared to March 2019.  A large part of this was the drop in the value of refined oil exports but other important sectors are showing weakness as well.  The next six months will tell a better story of how Covid-19 has impacted key sectors such as forest products and fish/seafood.

I’m also worried about services-based exports (e.g. WestJet, Accor, Salesforce, ExxonMobil, RBC, etc.).  For me there is a concern that Covid-19 might lead to changes in these firms’ approach to the workforce that could negatively impact their economic footprint in New Brunswick.  For example, moving to a home-based workforce or over time retrenching employment closer to the head office.

Anyway you can hear the entire episode here:  As always please share with others and tell us what you would like us to talk about on the podcast as we want this to become the go to podcast for economic development in Atlantic Canada.