Say something enough and people start to believe it

There is increasing evidence that people are moving to Moncton – deliberately. What I mean is that people are choosing to move here primarily for quality of life and related issues not because they were forced to because of a transfer.

Now, as a lifetime New Brunswicker and used to people a) leaving or b) complaining, it takes sometime for this stuff to sink in. Sure, I see it in the ‘statistics’ but real live examples are much more compelling.

For example, there’s a new Brazilian couple in Moncton. Moved here from one of the hottest areas in the north of Brazil. They wanted to emigrate to Canada and they wanted a smaller city location. The husband got a job with one of the large multinational firms that moved here in the 1990s.

Anyway, apparently, there are dozens of people at his place of employment that moved here from Toronto, Vancouver, etc. – not transfered to Moncton – wanted to come here. Applied for the job here. They, apparently, are telling this Brazilian couple that Moncton is an excellent place to live and raise a family.

Now, this is not a plug for attracting multinational firms and how that will bring in immigrants and migrants. I do that enough elsewhere.

This is a blog about how the ‘armpit’ of the Maritimes with garbage blowing through a boarded up downtown can become a place that people want to move to. In my office, there are Campbelltonians, Bay St. Anners, Frederictonians, Tunisians, French, Edmundstonians, Saint Johners and Antigonishers.

Whereas in the past people would say “why Moncton?” now they are saying “why not?”.

Remember, folks. There is a clear story about the revitalization of Greater Moncton. A simple history, really. A lot of folks locally saying enough’s enough. A catalytic event (the Shops closure). Serious leadership at the local level. And oodles of national and multinational firms brought into the community (over 35 in 20 years) supplemented with a very stong entrepreneurial climate that gave rise to a number of successful local businesses.

The next 20 years for Greater Moncton will be about attracting people and higher end business investment.

It’s tough but actually not as tough as the last 20.

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0 Responses to Say something enough and people start to believe it

  1. Anonymous says:

    A nice story and a positive indication.

    It seems that to create enough will to change, it requires some sort of an intervention or crisis. Moncton was on its knees before rebounding as the economic hub of NB. Summerside was about to be errased from the map before developing new industry. There are lots of similar examples of communities rebounding and being stronger.

    NB itself is facing a crisis but the candy coating placed on it by politicians to get, or stay, elected is preventing a united concensous for change. While the population declines, the productivity gap widens, and fundamental industries disappear, we are still fighting amoungst ourselves on trivial issues or taking cheap shots at the sparse success stories we have here.

    Let’s hope NB is not wiped off the map before the general population understands we need to think and act differently to maintain and grow our standard of living.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For someone “from away” who is not exactly familiar with the story of the rise of Moncton, can anyone point me to a paper/write-up/summary of what happened? I hear little snippets of it being on hard times and bouncing back… but that’s about all I know.

  3. Anonymous says:

    David,

    You’re spot-on with this.

    With so much hype about so many governmental “plans,” it’s easy to forget that Moncton really is a genuine success story.

    I wonder though if you might address two ideas:

    1) Everyone has tried to duplicate the Moncton story. Look through business mags and you’ll see ads for places like Timmins that are uncannily like the Moncton pitch of 15 years ago. Have they missed the boat? Can there be only one Moncton-type story per generation, and do relocation types see through the hype of the imitators? How do they know for sure?

    2) I wonder if the province has erred since the Moncton Miracle in trying to translate the success there to every other corner of the province (call centres everywhere, talk of IT, etc.) even if the business case isn’t as strong. (Not as bilingual, not as much of a hub regionally, not on the TCH, not the same air service, etc.) In other words, have they diluted their efforts by trying to turn every town in the province into another Moncton?

  4. David Campbell says:

    To the poster looking for a summary, that’s hard. I don’t know of a single source – although there have been newspaper articles in the Globe & Mail years ago (Moncton Miracle was the term used).

  5. David Campbell says:

    1) Everyone has tried to duplicate the Moncton story. Look through business mags and you’ll see ads for places like Timmins that are uncannily like the Moncton pitch of 15 years ago. Have they missed the boat? Can there be only one Moncton-type story per generation, and do relocation types see through the hype of the imitators? How do they know for sure?

    This is a good point. Moncton got lucky in that it had lots of bilingual workers, lots of empty commercial buildings, a good telephone company and a Premier out selling call centres. Irrespective of what people think about call centres they were the single biggest influence on Moncton’s growth (7,000 jobs).

    So, places like Timmons need to ask themselves what they want to be and work towards that vision. I know that sounds like the same old clap trap but it’s not. If Timmons wants to reinvent itself as a data centre hub (like upstate NY or rural Washington state), it could do it. It would have to do serious, deliberate things and make strategic investments in infrastructure, training, promotion, etc. but there are industries that are not geographic specific. But Timmons can’t just publish a brochure and say “Hey, over here, we want data centres”. Communities and economic development agencies have to be much more deliberate about product development. About making targeted investments to make their communities attractive for certain industries. Moncton got lucky, it had the core elements needed for call centres.


    2) I wonder if the province has erred since the Moncton Miracle in trying to translate the success there to every other corner of the province (call centres everywhere, talk of IT, etc.) even if the business case isn’t as strong. (Not as bilingual, not as much of a hub regionally, not on the TCH, not the same air service, etc.) In other words, have they diluted their efforts by trying to turn every town in the province into another Moncton?

    Bingo. You’ve nailed it. The business case. For far too long, communities have looked around at what they have and tried to cobble together a business case. Wrong. Build the case. Charlottetown built a $7 million IT incubator to attract IT firms. Ireland is building industrial buildings in far flung locations. The NB government has invested in a highly successful animation program at NBCC Miramichi. If a community wants to be an “animation hub” or a “data centre cluster” or a “nearshore manufacturing cluster” or an “elearning hub” or a “translation and localization hub” or whatever – it has to build a business case. Invest in education. Invest in infrastructure. Invest in R&D. Invest in promotion. Send a clear signal to potential investors that community x is serious about building this specific industry. I know this line of thinking is not widely agreed upon. There are very few examples in Atlantic Canada of anything such as this. But look at Dublin, Ireland. The government built a whole “Financial District”. Look at the MaRS project in Toronto. Hundreds of millions of dollars to incubate technology. Yeah, you say. That’s fine. But you can’t do that in the Miramichi. Think again, my friend. We spend upwards of $80 million per year in the Greater Miramichi area on Employment Insurance payouts. If you invested a fraction of that into making Miramichi an animation hub you would be far out ahead. We have to get government to stop thinking about only expenses (income support payments) and start thinking about investments (jobs so people don’t need income support).