Could be a good idea

Cape Breton University is offering an MBA in Community Economic Development. I don’t know much about this program, but I think the concept is great. For the most part B Schools have ignored ‘economic development’ as a discipline and the Departments of Economics have thought it was too mundane and pedestrian for their tastes (for example the economic development course at Waterloo is offered through the Dept. of Geography).

I always thought this was strange. The idea of churning out dozens of top notch kids schooled in the tools and techniques of economic development is a good one.

However, as you may know, ‘community’ in front of ‘economic development’ invokes an entirely different concept. If the CBU MBA is all about ‘community’, I think that would be a big mistake. It should be a hard hitting program on how best practice jursidictions support the growth of their economy. Sample courses for me would include:

101: Attracting industry – capacity building
102: Attracting industry – building the value proposition
103: Attracting industry – targeting and closing
104: Finding gazelles – how do successful communities attract and grow entrepreneurial startups?
105: The role of R&D in economic development
106: Building concensus: the role of the economic developer as cheerleader

And others.

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0 Responses to Could be a good idea

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds very similar to masters program offered by the University of Waterloo.

  2. David Campbell says:

    That’s interesting. I am out of the loop. I see it is offered by the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

  3. mikel says:

    I was going to mention that, say what you want about U of W, they are usually ahead of the curve.

    However, I suspect your ‘old school’ outlook doesn’t have a place there OR at Cape Breton, judging from their curriculae and publications.

    Your first three courses are essentially ‘how to be a corporate whore 101, 102, 103’, even ‘how to be a CHEAP corporate whore’. Sorry for the slander there against prostitutes, I would put them on a pedistal compared to most economists!

    But if you look at the way this is going, people at the grassroots level are going very much against the grain, which is why the media never talks about this stuff. Even at U of W, the main ‘focus’ mentions ‘healthy societies’. Now, if you want to believe that that means lots of corporate handouts, thats one’s own choice, but judging from their interdisciplinary approach that’s far from the case.

    However, its ironic that Waterloo itself is completely estranged from ALL its educational facilities. For example, you may have heard the hubbub about the oak ridges moraine in Toronto, well here in Waterloo the moraine supplies even MORE of the local water, yet there is massive development over virtually the only source of water-long term plans for the region call for a hundred kilometer pipeline to one of the great lakes.

    Yet geology professors who have given talks on the moraine are constantly marginalized and ignored simply because the academic view does not conform to the municipal view of ‘growth at any cost’.

    Cape Breton’s courses are much the same, although its sadly tellin g that their last newsletter came out in 2003 and while they tout the ‘community’ aspect, there is virtually NO information online. Compare that with the local CIGI institute here in waterloo that has virtually all their talks available as podcasts, and even offer their publications as public access with only a creative commons license (meaning you can use it for whatever you want, so long as you give credit).

    But the Cape Breton course is aligned with several institutes, and interestingly enough one is a native academic group. So I highly doubt your particular expertise is what they are looking for. I know you may not LIKE it, but that doesn’t make it invalid-and of course it is only an academic course so its not like it has an effect on government policy anyway. You could train all the NBers you want in ‘how to attract business’, but if they show up for work and the thinking is ‘don’t bother with those companies’ then its pretty irrelevant.

    You are IN that association of economic developers that are partners aren’t you?:)

  4. David Campbell says:

    It always amazes me that you equate attracting industry with being a corporate ‘whore’. I guess that wanting good paying jobs and a future for our communities makes me a prostitute. Sounds good to me. As for the traditional view of ‘community’ economic development, I never said that was invalid. I have said and will continue to say that if your goal is bringing an inner city neighbourhood out of poverty, then the tools and techniques of ‘community’ economic development apply. If your goal is to raise the overall economic prospects of a community or a province, you need to have broader strategies including being a whore. And, again in my opinion – I have never been doctrinaire about this stuff – I think we have piles of academic training on ‘community’ economic development, on sustainable development, on land use planning, etc. and almost none on the art of attracting industry (being a whore). I think there needs to be far more focus on that.

  5. mikel says:

    I forgot to mention, at U of W, at least three quarters to four fifths of the students are women. I wonder if that will put a new face on economic development in the future.

  6. mikel says:

    At least your honest, and I think we’ll drop that analogy before it gets TOO slanderous! There is nothing wrong with thinking that, but as you’ve said, we’re trying to deal with ‘reality’ here. And what we’ve seen from virtually EVERY economic development strategy has been ‘giving it away for cheap’. That doesn’t make YOU a prostitute, it makes the government one, and you a cheerleader for prostitution, so to speak:)

    I can easily see your point, but again, the ‘skills’ of doing something belong in a community college, NOT a university whose goal is to understand the broader perspectives. There is no much point learning to sell Lada’s when they are about to become obsolete.

    Learning to sell is something you learn by doing. I worked in sales most of my life, and still do. Its NOT something you teach in a class. I can still remember an upper level course at university in marketing, this was in the days when there used to be a clock maker in maugerville on the old trans canada. A group of young entrepreneurs bought out one of the last two clockmakers in canada for a hefty price and came in giving presentations showing how these ‘hip young go getters’ were ‘state of the art’, etc., etc. and were going to turn the business around.

    Two years later the place was out of business. So who would you pick to come in and talk to a group of students? The ‘young go getters’, or the old guy who sold out when the getting was good?

    Anybody who knows salespeople knows salespeople really are a breed apart. You can learn it, but you learn it from experience, NOT sitting in a classroom. Go to Chapters, there are dozens of ‘how to’ books there.

    But go look at Cape Breton and U of W’s website. This is not nickel and dime stuff, it is interdisciplary, and it is attempting to economically DEVELOP, not economically handout.

    And of course I know you are on the same wavelength. I don’t hear you giving massive propaganda to Irvings LNG terminal, Lepreau, or another refinery. If you DID think differently than these two schools are were really a…, well, lets drop that, then you’d essentially be an Irving rag.

    Again, there are GOOD corporations out there, and if a province can get them, all the better. But to be brutally honest, there simply is no reason why a corporation would set up there. There is no market, there is not much difference in costs, etc.

    It’s an idealized view that IF the government were to go hard core crazy and start knocking on doors that corporations will say ‘wow, what a sales pitch, why didn’t we think of New Brunswick!’

    But the world needs more idealists, at least its somewhat creative thinking, and governmetn pisses away more on corporate handouts anyway. As I’ve said in the past, I definitely support putting more money into BNB, and have written extensively on how to do it. But in academia you have to take a broader view, economics isn’t everything, and someday our children, or children’s children are going to realize that we shouldn’t be living to work, we should only have to work to live.

  7. David Campbell says:

    That’s great. Now I am a pimp.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The anti-business attitudes displayed by some on this blog underscore the challenge facing New Brunswick in growing our economy.

    Of course we have to identify opportunities, develop value propositions and close deals. And we better get damn good at it because the rest of the world is already kicking our ass. Even PEI and NS have learned how to close deals and attract deals including some from our own province.

    Unfortunately, some people think economic development is merely corporate welfare. The fact is, a legitimate business wants sustainable success; any ‘handout’ is merely a temporary incentive that may help to accelerate a decision. The ingredients and conditions for a successful business operation have to be in place to be attractive to a prospect. Understanding (and possibly enhancing) the unique set of ingredients for a specific business prospect is part of the process in identifying and qualifying prospects.

    Yes, economic development MBAs may be a good idea but it appears we may need to start with economics 101.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I might be stereotyping, but I think most MBA students are in it for the money.

    I’m guessing a smart, articulate MBA like Dave could earn a boatload more cash in the financial industry somewhere.

  10. mikel says:

    That seems pretty personal so I’ll respond, but repeat that I certainly have no political power or authority so its a stretch to say that anything said on this blog has anything to do with governmment policy. It’s hardly because of comments at blogs, or even letters to the editor that Nova Scotia and PEI are ‘kicking NB’s ass’.

    But nobody has to listen to my ‘opinion’ all they have to do is look at the facts. Pick ANY new industry player and tell me its not ‘corporate welfare’. However, I wouldn’t call it corporate welfare, it is simply corporate control. When Kings and princes enriched themselves and their friends they didn’t call it ‘welfare’.

    But the above post is patently false-incentives are NOT ‘temporary’. Irvings LNG terminal has a reduced property tax assessment for the entire length of the project. A corporate welfare scenario would be the synthetic wallboard factory they are building with the fifty million that the feds gave them.

    That’s ‘start up’ money, just like any other business, so you ‘could’ call it ‘corporate welfare’. However, ‘long term’ its a different story, as the synthetic wallboard will be made from waste made from Coleson Cove. You can just imagine what that means, a ‘waste product’ being ‘recycled’ is certainly in the government’s best interest, but again, it keeps the government at doing what every other industrial country is doing-which is getting rid of coal power.

    So Irving will get waste from the plant, and you can bet it’ll be dirt cheap. That’s NOT corporate welfare. Thats simply legislation and policy that puts the risks and costs (health risks and international censure at doing business with human rights abusers in Columbia to get coal and ignoring environmental costs) on the heads of YOU, while handing over cheap product to Irving to keep making money.

    That’s NOT corporate welfare. That’s not ‘startup money’, just like a 25 year deal on property tax isn’t a one time ‘investment’. The refinery in Maine will net the locals 16 times as much. In Quebec they ‘may’ get up to 30 times as much if any community accepts it (of course not if they can find a government that will do like NB and simply impose it).

    In forestry, where ups and downs are common, industry players are acting like its a huge surprise that prices have dropped. Lo and behold they want cheaper wood or cheaper energy costs. So now the media, even the CBC, is going around debating the issue as if ‘free markets’ were something nobody had ever heard of.

    So that’s not like giving ten grand to start up a company, which MAY be legitimate depending on the details, which is of course why the public is never given details and why the NB government is one of, if not the most secretive governments in Canada.

    Again, corporations contribute barely 3% of the budget, in Prince Edward Island they contribute 10%, and they don’t have Irving or McCain headquartered there. At least PEI is getting a ‘return on investment’ and of course whatever kind of handouts they are giving-they certainly aren’t natural resources.

    There are business investments that can work and we’ve talked about that here. My ONLY beef with David is that he puts the cart before the horse, like the premier he thinks that simply having aggressive salespeople will solve the problems. FIRST you need the policies and the industry. It was nice that RIM invested in Nova Scotia, in fact I think the Feds should have FORCED them to, rather than let them go outside the country (as they were looking to do). But we know why Nova Scotia got RIM, there was an excellent article we linked to here. They had good salespeople, but thats not why RIM went there. They are a RESEARCH company, so they went to a province which is serious about research and has six universities within a six hour drive.

    Everybody knows that the future is in knowledge industries, but to point a finger, every time I mention education there are usually a couple of rebuttals saying that New Brunswick has too many schools as it is-even though the province has one of the worst literacy rates in the hemisphere.

    As I’ve said before, forget corporate welfare. Haven’t you ever asked why government wants to get into THE most spurious form of energy production ever? Nuclear power has HUGE risks, its one of the main reason NBPower has debt in the first place. It is VERY dangerous and will continue to be increasingly so, and it will dump off a legacy of irresponsible planning on future NBers.

    Meanwhile, guaranteed money makers like wind power and gas terminals are ‘left to the private sector’. If you don’t think they are money makers you don’t know much about private power-the Irvings and this Alberta company certainly aren’t setting up those two industries because they like the New Brunswick landscape.

    Again, thats NOT corporate welfare, it is simply the way a business run society functions. It serves the loudest interests-which are corporate ones.