Quality of life

What ever happened to Joey from that TV show Blossom? Come to think of it, what ever happened to Blossom?

Digression.

Joey was the dumb brother who would say ‘whoa’ a lot – particularly when he didn’t understand something.

I have to say ‘whoa’ and serve up some caution on this issue of selling ‘quality of life’. There was an article in the TJ recently entitled “Make quality of life N.B.’s selling point”. It would have been nice if the title was “Make quality of life one of N.B.’s selling points”. Because the truth of the matter is that when companies are looking to put an operation in New Brunswick, quality of life is a rather minor matter. As one CEO told me back in the 1990s, “I’m not moving here”.

I have said that QOL is becoming increasingly important in an era of labour shortages. In an era when you have to show to companies the community’s ability to attract people from beyond its borders. The quality of life in a community is critical to attract people. Therefore, critical to attract and grow industry.

But it is certainly not the only issue and to put a happy face on the flag and run it up the flagpole and then wait for businesses to come running makes no sense. New Brunswick has a relatively good quality of life (the piles of snow out my window notwithstanding). Promote it. But I would spend a lot more time figuring out what is the rest of our value proposition. We are running out of workers, our energy costs are above average, we have very little critical mass in any of the fast growing sectors of the North American economy, etc.

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0 Responses to Quality of life

  1. trevor says:

    We should be pushing for more imigration to jump on the opportunity presented by current US imigration policies. Many larger ICT companies in the US can’t bring in the best talent or keep foreign University talent because of VISA issues.

    Why not make NB the R&D base for these companies where the best and brightest around the world can come here to work, live and play?

  2. mikel says:

    Don’t you think that that CEO thought that perhaps the ‘quality of life’ wasn’t so great and THAT was why they weren’t moving? Environmental policies are non-existent, lots of talk about a new refinery, a pulp mill in the middle of St. John. Moncton, quite frankly, is pretty ugly with that petitcodiac.

    The only province that allows aerial spraying of pesticides, cottage owners complaining that mining speculators can put up a sign anywhere in the province, hydro rates increasing, property tax increasing.

    The ‘quality of life’ generally means “pretty scenery”, which is true enough, but lots of places have pretty scenery. Charles Leblanc is right, Fredericton is one of the prettiest small cities around, but the poverty on the streets isn’t very attractive.

    But I’d agree with both sides, IF the Telegraph Journal actually meant that then it would be great. Quality of life of course means more than pretty scenery, having only one family owning all the media, having two refineries, a gas terminal, and a pulp mill are hardly ‘qualities’ to endorse.

    On the other hand, you have a point that nobody is going to move just for that, although they MIGHT if some of those other things were present. IF there is a good quality of life then the types of CEO’s that WOULD come to the province are the types people would want. IF companies were blown away by how good the ‘quality of life’ is, then they may be interested, but that is FAR from the condition of the province right now.

    That is simply the Business council propaganda talking. “Quality of life” here means “we’re so great the way we are we don’t need to change any policies”. It’s also one of those things hard to argue against because as soon as you do then people get all uptight that you are ‘badmouthing them’, even though the population has little to do with the policies.

    I think if quality of life were made a centrepiece then it WOULD go a long way, even in economic development, however, ‘people from away’ aren’t as easily fooled about what qualities actually exist. People do tend to prefer the place they are living in.

    I do know some people at FatKat who moved to the Miramichi from Toronto and absolutely love it, even back when there was a pulp mill stinking the place up. They loved the laid back atmosphere and the lack of traffic. However, I found MORE traffic in Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John than here in Waterloo-unless you head for Toronto. The highway out of town and the 401 is madness, but in town the traffic is no different than ‘down home’.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Developing a value proposition to attract business starts with a simple concept, excuse my language for those anti-business posters, PROFIT. If a business is motivated to locate or expand to NB and it does not have profit as a key priority, we probably don’t want them.

    So, we need a value proposition that helps a prospective business return more value to their stakeholders (I’ll use kinder, gentler words so as not to offend). This could be availability of a workforce, energy rates, proximity to markets, proximity to suppliers, communications infrastructure, tax incentives, transportation infrastructure and a host of other things that the degree of attractiveness varies depending on the nature of the business.

    So, QOL in itself is not directly attractive to a prospective business owner. However, to a business struggling to attract and retain workers, it could be packaged up and sold to be a critical element. If your workforce can afford housing, enjoy a 15 minute commute, walk the streets at night, have time (and money) to go to the theater/sports event etc, then it could contribute to a stable and satisfied workforce and could help a business to be successful.

    We need to think like a prospective business by understanding what is between them and greater success then figure out if we can offer what they need to make that happen. If our approach is to haphazardly offer any business “QOL” (and or financial incentives) without understanding the motivation and the challenges of the prospect, we will attract losers and scammers. The good prospects are considering if they can be profitable doing business from NB (and thinking well beyond any temporary incentives).

  4. nbt says:

    The above should get into selling used cars as “energy rates, communications infrastructure, taxes, transportation infrastructure”, etc. are all [at least] 15 years away from just being viable, and I’m not talking competitive here.

    And that would only happen if reforms were introduced and tabled tomorow at noon. We know that’s not going to happen.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Before the spin doctors gets excited about Saint John’s “Happiest City in Canada” title (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2007/12/27/happiness-atlantic.html), here is an article that they should read: http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2008.02-homes-urban-happiness-me-want-more-square-footage/

    An extract: “This is part of the reason we’ve come to assess material success in relative terms. Like eyes, which perceive colour and luminosity relative to surrounding objects, the brain constantly adjusts its idea of what it needs to be happy. We compare what we have now to what other people have, and what we might possibly get next, and then we recalibrate our measure of happiness.”

    Question: maybe ONE of the reasons why we keep falling behind is that we — New Brunswickers, and Atlantic Canadians in general — are satisfied with less?

  6. Anonymous says:

    It appeared in yesterday’s BusinessWeek ManagementIQ blog:

    RICHARD FLORIDA DOES IT AGAIN
    Posted by: Michelle Conlin on January 02

    One of my all-time favorite working life books is Richard Florida’s 2002 bestseller The Rise of the Creative Class. Florida—he of the no collar workforce and Bohemian-Gay housing index fame (down, Stephen Colbert, down!)—is one of the smartest working life observers in the country. Over and over again, with great intellectual elegance, he sets it all up and then spins it forward.

    So it is with great glee that I announce the latest in Florida’s working life oeuvre, a new book due out from publisher Basic in March called Who’s Your City? If you think working remotely means where you live—your place—doesn’t matter anymore, Florida correctly shows us—with his trademark data and analysis—why you’re dead wrong. The books is a superb treatise on the location paradox: the idea that as the world becomes more mobile, the more decisive location becomes.

    At first it seems paradoxical. Since we can work remotely, place should hardly matter, right? The world if flat. Distance is dead. But Florida shows how, in the hyper wireless world, place is exerting an even more powerful influence on happiness than ever before due to the power of agglomeration, the force of clustering and the growth of smart spots. Choosing one’s scene is becoming as important as choosing one’s spouse and career, Florida argues.

    We learn why San Francisco is the best city for young singles; why Washington D.C. is the best place to raise kids; and why New York City is one of the top spots for retirees.

    Something to look forward to!

    (TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.businessweek.com/mt/
    mt-tb.cgi/8697.1284813873)

  7. mikel says:

    There is no doubt of the above, however, that may be a little TOO simplistic. After all, its a pretty big assumption that ‘retirees’ in New York all have the same wants or needs.

    Ditto singles in San Francisco. Some singles may want night life, others don’t care and want hi speed internet and low taxes. And on and on.

    However, the first part makes sense, although ‘clustering’ has been another word (read Orwell) for “here’s why we’re screwing you”. Before it was just “we’re screwing you”. RIM doesn’t NEED to be in Waterloo because of the universities, other cities have universities, hell, Moncton has a university. They are HERE for two reasons, first the university has a generous royalty plan for startups, which maritime universities still don’t (I don’t think), and because the guys LIVE here and like it.

    However, companies don’t trust employees to do telework in most respects, there’s no way to keep track of them, and more importantly its a power thing. Government has been no better, I don’t think there has been a single program to encourage that, at least I’ve never heard of one.

    It’s interesting to talk about this now because I just noticed over at AIMS website that they have a paper talking about how ‘money put into ‘culture’ is a waste because people care more about good roads’. This is even though if you check David’s chart of a while back you’ll see that jobs in culture have been increasing markedly, while transportation has decreased (admittedly construction is up, but culture at least ‘builds’ an industry). Shows you that ‘think’ in ‘think tank’ is often an oxymoron.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Mikel, I agree with you in part. The whole city of Moncton has at most half a dozen profs that can compete at the national level. And I am very generous with that number. It would be very hard to build a cluster with that amount people, even if all of them were working in the same sector. We could say the same about Fredericton or Saint John. What we have is a reasonable starting point, but more capacity building is urgently needed.

    I read the commentary in the AIMS website. I have only one word to describe it: pathetic. It is just another example of how some people either don’t understand what they read or comment on something that they haven’t read (I am referring to Patrick Luciani). I don’t have a power of attorney from Richard Florida, but his concept of a creative place is very clear to me when he says that “successful places do not provide just one thing; rather they provide a range of quality of place options for different kinds of people at different stages in the life course.” (The Rise of the Creative Class, Chapter 12).

    In his commentary, Patrick Luciani not only got everything wrong but he miserably failed to even try to provide any alternative to Richard Florida’s hypothesis.

    And, by the way, organizing five or six days per year of a jazz & blues festival of questionable quality can hardly be qualified as promotion of cultural life.

  9. Anonymous says:

    David, I see that you may not have liked my criticism of AIMS’ Patrick Luciani yesterday — my comment questioning his competence wasn’t posted.

    Anyway, I think that you will find this e-brief interesting (Chronic Rigidity: The East’s Labour Market Problem and How to Fix It. CD Howe Institute, December 2007):
    http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/ebrief_51.pdf

    By the way, you don’t have to post this comment. I don’t have your e-mail so I didn’t know how to send you the link.

  10. David Campbell says:

    I didn’t see any comment about AIMS. Don’t know what happened. I post just about everything that doesn’t include profanity or undue nastiness. Resend and I will post.

  11. Anonymous says:

    My main point in the comment that didn’t make it was this: some people (Patrick Luciani from AIMS included) are amazingly good at either not understanding what they read or at making comments about something that they haven’t read. In the AIMS paper that Mikel cites, Luciani blatantly misses the point. Instead of offering alternatives, what he does is a plain and pathetic attempt to discredit Canada’s largest cities with a high school level “analysis” of why some things are not working. Actually, my apologies to any high school student reading this. Any of you could have done better than him.

    What Richard Florida says about creative places is this: “successful places do not provide just one thing; rather they provide a range of quality of place options for different kinds of people at different stages in the life course” (The Rise of the Creative Class, Chapter 12). It is therefore very clear that cultural life is only ONE of several factors that make a city attractive to the creative class. Diversity and tolerance — of which the gay index is a good indicator — are another two.

    And one last thought: promoting a jazz & blues festival of questionable quality once a year can hardly be regarded as a serious investment in culture.