Top down or bottom up? Two different approaches to economic development.

I get a fair amount of questions from reporters and others about the impact of federal fiscal policy, the role of monetary policy to shore up the economy or the impact of governments running large fiscal deficits.  Sometimes I get questions about national innovation strategies or the the impact of global trade agreements and the impact of climate change on the economy.

Those are all fair questions but the reality is there are hundreds – maybe even thousands – of economists, government employees, policy influencers, journalists and pundits all grappling with those questions.

And no one is asking why the Village of Chipman lost 30 businesses in the past five years (employers and non-employers with at least $30,000 in revenue).

You may say, who cares about Chipman?

I’m not suggesting that the hundreds and thousands of people grappling with national and international challenges should turn there view towards Chipman.

But someone should.

Twenty-five+ years into economic development and I am growing even more convinced the solution to sustainable, long term economic development and prosperity is found in local communities.

I’m not suggesting there is no role for provincial and national strategies.  There certainly is when it comes to issues that are provincial and national in scope.  If the federal government, for example, decided to curtail immigration into New Brunswick it would bring any economic renewal to a screeching halt.

But in the end, provinces are collections of communities and countries are even bigger collections of communities and if enough of those communities are ignoring economic development and population growth, it will harm provinces, regions and possibly eventually even the country.

So why did Chipman lose 30 businesses?

I would like to see strong, ground up strategies for economic development in New Brunswick that focus on building vibrant local communities.

What entrepreneurial ventures could work in Chipman?  Is there a local demand that people have to leave the village to address (e.g. go to Fredericton).  If so, why not find entrepreneurs to fill that local demand?  Are there agricultural opportunities in the surrounding areas?  Are there tourism opportunities?  Other natural resources development opportunities?  Who’s out hustling?

Again, you say, who should care about Chipman?

If that is your view, then who should care about Fredericton? Or Bathurst or Edmundston?  Where do you cut off your concern?

I would rather have model in place that ensures all regions of the province have the means to develop economic opportunities and work to attract population.

Not all will be successful.

But all should try.