Job creation announcements

I don’t know if I blame the media or the government spin guys for this but job creation announcements in New Brunswick are getting thinner and thinner with the information these days.

I am not opposed to government using tax payer dollars to support good ED projects.  But it has to be good value for the investment and reading both the press releases and the media reports about these projects lately you get almost nothing to allow us to determine the value.

All job creation funding from government should include the following information:

1. The number of jobs forecasted to be created leveraging the public funds and the expected timeline for those jobs.  Not theoretical or possible but actual hard forecasts that can be measured over time.

2. The average wage of the jobs to be created to help us understand the value of the jobs.  Given a million bucks to create $8/hour jobs these days is not good ED policy.  We need to know this.

3. The total private sector investment in the project.  Only on very very rare occasions should government funding of a project be more than 20%-30% of the total amount.  ED projects must be primarily funded through the funds of the company with some support by government but not the other way around.  If the government is putting 50%, 60% or more of the upfront capital, the public should just go ahead and own it (yikes).

4. The public sector investment in the project and the actual terms of repayment or not.  If it is a ‘forgiveable loan’ tell the public that the loan is written off if the jobs are created and sustained for x years.  Don’t parse words or try to confuse people.  Tell the facts.  That’s always the best policy.  Also what happens if the targets are not met.  Does the public get its money back?

5. A bit about the competitive situation.  The public needs to have a cursory understanding that this was a good investment.

6.  Where the public funds are going.  Is it to support equipment purchases?  Training?  Working capital?

This six elements should be in every government press release that involves taxpayer funding of economic development.  If they are not, the media should ask for these six questions to be answered before running the story. 

Now with that as a background, read this press release and this media report and ask yourself if you get any of these six questions answered.

I am sorry.  I really appreciate job creation and efforts to foster private business investment in this province but you can’t determine even at a superficial level if this project (and many more if you look at recent press releases) has economic development merit.   In the media report, we read:

“Probably year one, production could be 25-50,” he said, meaning that many jobs could also be created. “The sky’s the limit,” I guess.”

$1.3 million in government funding and the level of precision is “the sky’s the limit”?

Government spinners will say that this information is not needed and in fact some of it is ‘proprietary’.  The truth is that if there a public funds involved, this information should be public.  I am not asking for the business plan, the profit margins, the specific wage rates for each position, etc.  I am asking for the private sector investment level, the average wage level, the scheduled roll out of the jobs and the nature and repayment around the public funds involved.  That seems to be a minimum level of information.

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