Province exceeds business envoys target

Shipley’s got a piece in the TJ today saying that the province has exceeded its target for 100 business ambassadors.

While in general I think this is great, I do have to say that I remain a little suspicious of the motives of some. The fact that the NB Biz Council responded to the Self Sufficiency report by saying that the government should not put so much focus on attracting industry causes me concern. Are these same people then supposed to be out selling the province as a place to move your business to?

The truth is that I have studied over a dozen business ambassador models an in all cases they involved local and global business leaders from the region proactively trying to attract new industry to the region. For example, Frank McKenna using his contacts in the financial sector to attract back offices to New Brunswick or the head of an Internet company using his contacts in Silicon Valley to attract companies and people here. In fact, in many cases (such as Boston), company CEOs were working to attract direct competitors to the region. Why? Because they realize their markets are not local – they are global. They realize that the larger the cluster, the larger the talent pool, the more research being conducted, etc. They are able to see beyond just another ‘competitor’ for my labour pool and someone pushing up wages by 50 cents an hour.

Our local businesses – the ones competing outside this market – need to have the same view. Ganong should want more confectionary manufacturers here – to build the cluster. Sure, it might put upward pressure on wages. Sure it will put increasing pressure on the labour market but Ganong himself has said that being an isolated manufacturer on the periphery of North America is not good business model. But if New Brunswick was the confectionary capital of North America – with Baskin Robbins, Nestle, Lindt, etc. with manufacturing here you would have research at UNB, you would have a confectionary industry association, you would have community college programs turning out industry trained graduates.

Now, don’t go all Rambo on me and tell me about the Hershey plant going under in Halifax and the other confectionary firms that have gone under. I realize that. I also know that Lindt and Nestle are heavily expanding their North American business. The other benefit of having a critical mass of firms is that there isn’t as much impact when one closes (think the three call centres that closed/downsized recently).

That’s what the NB Biz Council doesn’t get (or at least some of them). It is hard to grow a business – a true global business- in an isolated market with no critical mass. With no local suppliers, a limited local specialized labour pool, no R&D capacity, etc.

So these ‘envoys’ should be out selling NB – selling their competitors – suppliers – partners – etc. on setting up in New Brunswick. On building a critical mass of firms in targeted sectors.

I really feel that with the dollar at parity, many of our firms – the isolated ones that have been making their marging soley on the 70 cent dollar – are in jeopardy.

So go out and sell, ambassadors. But before you go, ask Greg Byrne what you are supposed to be selling.

Because, that is now the $64,000 question – or should I say the $1.03 question.

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0 Responses to Province exceeds business envoys target

  1. mikel says:

    Very good post. That’s true about Hershey, but an exception doesn’t prove a rule (necessarily). The biggest names in chocolate here are Lindt, Ritter, and a bunch of french and Norwegian names I can’t even understand.

    There are lots of people with money who don’t blink at blowing $2 on a chocolate bar, I was addicted to the lindt ones when they were $3, but then they got greedy (or the grocery store did) and they went up to $3.50-then they started sitting on the shelf.

    However, the quality is vastly superior to cadbury’s and hersheys, and dare I say, Ganong. But like Ganong says, he CANT move because the quality is linked to the water in their current location. Lose the water, lose the quality.

    New Brunswick has LOTS of places with exceptional water, and although mills are bad for workers, they are good for the water. That’s a perfect example of making economic choices now to limit pollution can pay off later, maybe even sooner rather than later.

    It’s interesting though that nobody knows who these ambassadors are apart from a select few, it’ll be interesting at year one to find out exactly what initiatives have come out of them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Its good to see that there are 100 ambassadors signed up so quickly. It shows good energy and commitment – at least outwardly. It remains to be seen if your notion of building ‘clusters’ pans out but the idea does work in both principle and actuality in other regions throughout the world. The only thing about that is the cost factor and thats where the government comes in. I dont think it would be a bad idea if these ambassadors began with Canadian companies not currently present in the Province. Call me irresponsible but I dont see a huge amount of US corporations beating the border to death to gain admittance but I dont want to be a pessimist and I hope this doesnt read as though I am pessimistic.
    Lets take your common thread of developing an animation cluster for example. Instead of asking BNB what we are selling why dont we TELL BNB that it might be an idea to build a cluster of small light industrial units (let’s say 10) on some Crown Land somewhere. They can even just have the plans drawn up for now. These plans and a proposal can be given to the aforementioned ambassadorial crew as something for them to ‘sell’to their contacts abroad. If it flies high the number of units can be expanded if it comes in smaller the number of units …… (you know how it goes). In other words they are selling animation. The same can be applied to electronics, confectionery, data, financials and so on.
    This model can be based on the Irish Development system where part of the deal is a rent free period and small tax breaks. Each cluster has a designation such as manufacturing and each corporation feeds off each other in that cluster. It will eventually spread out to the rest. Clusters can be positioned in economically barren regions throughout the province and nothing needs to be actually built until there are tenants for the units themselves.
    I would also include the resort industry in this because by its very nature resort developers do a lot of Tourism’s job for them in parts of the world where we arent active at present. It also opens up the economy to the resort investors who have the money and the business sense to take part in OUR economy thereby adding further strings to our bow just as a side benefit of ‘allowing’ them to own a vacation home in the province.
    Business breeds business and money breeds money. I think we can all see how monopolies are not a good thing specially in New Brunswick.
    I really hope something can come of this and we need our business experts to be on their game. We also need a more professional approach from our lamented government but as they just seem to be abdicating responsibility to 100 ambassadors I dont hold out a lot of hope for the reception that these ‘blow-ins’ get from BNB when their proposal is placed before the bcrats that decide, thereby alienating the ambassadors who have placed their reputations and contacts on the line in the first place.

  3. mikel says:

    To follow that up, thats precisely why we need to know who these ambassadors are. Right on this blog we read the sad story of a New Brunswicker who attempted to throw some development New Brunswick’s way and was seriously rebuffed.

    An ambassador’s job isn’t worth much if they talk on and on about New Brunswick and then somebody expresses an interest only to have nothing to back it up.

    For animation, we saw that the government said it was ‘talking’ to Fatkat after their big announcement to somehow bolster that industry. That, of course, is the best way to make connections. You make Fatkat happy, then when they talk to their partners then they can also throw some expansion their way.

    But again, it all comes down to policy, without policy there is nothing. We saw Nova Scotia make a huge policy change with tax breaks for film and television production. The result is that what little there is in New Brunswick of course goes across the border. So what is the reply? Well, so far there is none. In other words, an industry is going to simply be left alone to die.

    There COULD be something to come of this, no pessimism is necessary. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent researching, reading, listening and doing some little activism. Yet I don’t live in New Brunswick, I probably never will again. People just naturally want to help and feel a connection to ‘home’ even if its not home (of course not everybody feels that way).

    But that is where Richard (I think was the name) and others are right that there has to be a government with the balls to actually MAKE policy. If there is no policy, then its the same as Bernard Lord-all smoke and mirrors so that New Brunswickers THINK that something it getting done. I’m still not convinced that it isn’t that, when we actually see some policies that aren’t idiotic like what we’ve seen in the past year, then maybe people will have some more hope. Even ambassadors will get discouraged if there is nothing to anchor their excitement to.