Enterprise Greater Moncton, the organization that is mandated to coordinated economic development in the region, is expected to announce they have hired a new CEO sometime this week. The position has been vacant for five months after the former CEO, Ron Gaudet, left the position early in the summer.
I have a little advice for the incoming CEO – take it for what its worth. In my estimation if he does the following things, Enterprise Greater Moncton will be successful and by extention our community will reap economic benefits:
1. Bring the communities together. Enterprise Greater Moncton works with the three urban municipalities. Each has different wants and there is some rivalry and tension. EGM needs to rise above the fray and work for the greater good of the region. Having said that, the municipalities are the biggest funders and beneficiaries of EGM’s work. Therefore, a lot of time and effort must be expended to understand their needs and ensure that EGM is reflecting the goals and priorities of the three communities.
2. Take a regional leadership position. It’s time to put aside the petty politics and oneupmanship that has characterized relationships between Greater Moncton and the two other main urban areas in New Brunswick. We should celebrate the successes of our sister communities and work together on areas of common interest. Saint John, as I have said elsewhere, needs all the help it can get.
3. Make immigration a key priority. Greater Moncton’s labour market growth throughout the last 15 years has come primarily at the expense of other communities in New Brunswick. While Greater Moncton has boomed, our rural and northern communities have suffered. The net effect on the economy of the province has been negative (population decline overall). Any new labour market growth should come from other provinces and immigrants. And the province should have a serious strategy for rural and northern economic development (here’s a hint – emptying out the Acadian Peninsula is not a good economic development strategy). We need to make Greater Moncton a top location for people to move. Make it a welcome place. Remove roadblocks, ease transition. Watch out – Saint John has a leg up on this already.
4. Find the next big anchor growth industry. The call centre industry anchored GMs growth over the past 10 years bringing thousands of new jobs and the spinoffs have resulted in increased retail, entertainment and other service jobs. This industry will most likely consolidate in the next ten years as more and more people use the self-service Web to book their hotels, buy their goods and do their complaining. Without a new anchor industry, Greater Moncton may not be able to sustain its growth.
5. Don’t allow petty bickering and vested interests to get in the way. Anytime a region or an organization has some success, there is a tendancy for more in-fighting and less cooperation. That is happening in Greater Moncton. We need to put aside vested interests and pettiness and work for the common good.
6. Provide strong leadership. The biggest complaint I hear from economic developers across Atlantic Canada is that there has been no leadership on this issue for years – not locally, provincially or nationally. This is not a phantom issue. The new CEO of EGM needs to drive a stake in the ground and be determined to achieve the goals of the new strategic plan. People are constantly complaining about the lack of leadership from the province and the Premier on the issue of economic development. Well, in my way of thinking, its up this community, as the largest and most effective in the province, to set the tone. To come up with new ideas, to lead the charge. Hopefully, the province will come on board for the ride.
Above all, the tone among the development community in this region has to change back to the approach of the early 1990s where there was a sense that everyone was working together for the good of the region. In the words of the venerable philospher, Stark Trek’s Spock “As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create”.