After seeing Georgia’s rank on the Forbes and Site Selection magazine lists, I have been thinking that there are some lessons to be learned there. Of course, there is no perfect model but a few good things to consider:
1. Georgia realized in the 1980s the importance of FDI. Since then, on a per capita basis, Georgia is in the top four states for the attraction of FDI in manufacturing, services, pharma, etc. A long term commitment is needed because you can’t do this stuff over night.
2. Much of the manufacturing sector growth was far outside the Atlanta Metro. In fact, many cities did better in this sector. I think there is a lesson for NB here too.
3. Atlanta’s growth was broad-based but two sectors stand out – media (CNN) and transportation. Atlanta became the gateway to the new south. It’s the anchor of the city. What’s that have to with NB? Nothing except that if the Atl. Gateway became the reality pushed by its proponents, the Maritime Provinces would have its trade and transportation systems transformed from a weak end of the distribution chain to the centre of global transportation from Europe and the Indian Sub-continent.
On the media front, I think this sector is underrated by economic developers. I would like to see a city like Moncton become a media hub for eastern Canada. It worked wonders for Atlanta. It brings in hundreds of creative types earning good incomes. It expands critical thinking and analysis in a way you can’t get out of academia. We had the chairman of CanWest -former Premier Frank McKenna – for awhile. Forget trying to ‘attract’ CanWest. I would have tried to develop a long term public/private sector partnership with CanWest to help it become a North America leader in new media and I would have offered to invest significant public funds to help make New Brunswick a hub for this type of activity. R&D, advanced education and other cluster development work with CanWest (or some other major media player) as the anchor.
The whole media/information/research sector is under developed from an ED perspective. Dublin, Ireland is a hub for this type of industry. One of the largest industry research firms is based in Dublin.
4. Other interesting Georgia concepts – tightly tying training investments to specific industry needs and focusing on a few foreign markets for FDI attraction.