Head in the sand economic development

I continue to be disturbed by the message coming out of the province when it comes to attracting business investment to New Brunswick.

A recent Telegraph-Journal article made the following statement:

In a letter to the editor published last month in the Telegraph-Journal, Mr. Mesheau argued the province was one of the top performers across the country – landing 44 foreign direct investment projects between 2000 and 2004. Nova Scotia lagged with 32 while P.E.I. and Newfoundland lured eight a piece.

“Actually,” the minister wrote, “statistics demonstrate that New Brunswick ranks 4th in the country just behind Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.”

The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, though, argues differently – it says the province is in fact dead last in bringing in foreign investment over those four years. By measuring foreign investment against total investment dollars flowing into the province, it determined that foreign interests controlled only a five per cent share.

I have written alot about this in recent months. It seems that the provincial government believes its own marketing schtick – and that is a sad state of affairs indeed.

It is vitally important to project a positive marketing image when promoting New Brunswick in global markets. But that is exactly the wrong thing to do when looking inward and looking at policy development.

If the province is doing such a good job at attracting jobs, why are we among the worst in Canada for attracting investment? Further, and even more disturbing, when you back out call centre jobs there is almost nothing left. Not to denegrate call centre jobs but that well will eventually run dry and there seems to be no strategy at all to attract any companies in any other sector.

Nova Scotia has moved beyond call centres and is attracting higher end IT companies like RIM, Versata and a financial services firm from Bermuda.

PEI has developed a very significant aerospace cluster.

New Brunswick has developed……

Minister Mesheau would be well advised to get beyond defending the government record and start looking at developing some successful new industry attraction strategies.

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0 Responses to Head in the sand economic development

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’d be interested in seeing what those 44 companies that ‘directly invested’ in NB are. I know of Molson, Nackawic, and Bennett, I suspect some of the others are ‘Frank Peterson from Etobicoke bought a donut shop in Saint John’ kind of thing.

    Any idea where we can find that out? I wonder if the minister would reply to an email? If we knew WHAT KIND of investors they are braggin about, it may say a lot.

  2. David Campbell says:

    That’s a good question. I suspect there were a dozen or so call centre expansions (including the teeny rural ones VAS). 44 seems high but they may be including new Wal-Marts, etc. but maybe you should ask the Minister: [email protected].

  3. scott says:

    Don’t forget Canada’s largest processor of debit and credit card transactions, Moneris Solutions, in his own riding of Tantramar. That was a great start.

    The only problem is that we need 2 or 3 more strong addition like that in our town and region in order to start the growth process. This addition[Moneris] has only managed to bring some people off the seasonal work cycle, as well as get them off EI. It has not made more people move to the region, nor has it increased population levels or the birth rate. That is the type of economic development we need here in New Brunswick.

    It starts at the investment level. I know that Giant Tiger has thought about moving their business in on the highway near Sackville. Unfortunately, there business model requires a free lease from an unused building. In Ontario and Quebec, they started by moving into the closed down and vacant buildings of RED and White grocery stores. It’s a great idea and that model could work here, unfortunately we don’t have the infrastructure they require to start up.

    As well, there founder, who is CPC MP Scott Reid’s (not the beer and popcorn one) dad, believed that a store that promoted everything great about Canada and its domestic products could succeed amongst the international giants like Walmart. There is no question it did.

    As you said before David, we need large multi-mational companies to re-locate or expand in New Brunswick if our province is ever going to start an economic revolution.

    I just don’t see this happening at a political level. And I definitely don’t think its’ Mesheau fault this time.

    Remember, Paul Martin couldn’t go as far as he wanted on economic development and foreign investment when he was finance minister. I think the same short sightedness is happening here.