I am interviewed in the TJ today. I had a wide ranging discussion with the reporter and he settled on my comments regarding innovative economic development. I wanted to supplement that with a little more analysis here.
I think it is absolutely critical to get out front of emerging industry sector opportunities and build an early value proposition before the big guys (Ontario, et. al) get in. The ‘traditional’ way that economic developers think about economic development is to look at our existing industries and then try to develop a value proposition and wrap around some ‘development’ work to try and see if the industry can grow.
But what if your existing industries are either a) not in growth mode or b) you don’t have much of a value proposition for growth? Then what do you do? Sometimes, you have to look out on the horizon, identify fast growing or industries with potential and then develop a niche value proposition for those industries in your jurisdiction.
There wasn’t a single customer contact centre in New Brunswick in 1988 but some innovative thinkers in Fredericton realized it would be a massive employment engine over the upcoming decade and developed the NB value proposition. There wasn’t a single aquaculture farm in 1985 (as far as I can remember). If we had said we must focus on “what we have here” neither of these opportunities would have been developed.
PEI has an ambition plan to grow a nutraceutical industry and is investing heavily in resources and infrastructure to make it happen. There is no natural reason why the nutraceutical industry should grow on PEI? Cripes, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc. grow better in New Brunswick (as one example). But the industry is fast growing as people look to non-pharma based remedies.
Take the following table for example. It is the list of fastest growing occupations in the U.S. I would like us to find opportunities even further out there but this list is instructive. If you mapped this list to the BNB targeted growth sectors how much overlap would you find?
This is only an example – I am not recommending it but for instructive purposes, if I was looking at this list it would reinforce the economic development opportunities in:
Financial back offices
Telecom-Internet based networking industries
Specialized health care (like the May Clinic)
Obviously the recession may change this but the logic is sound. What are the emerging growth industries (those just over the horizon) and how can NB get in the game before the big guys?
Last example. In 1992, New Brunswick and Manitoba were the only jursidictions with booths at customer contact centre trade shows. People would curiously come up to the booth and ask why a jurisdiction was at a trade show for customer contact centres? By 1998, every single province in Canada except one was at the largest customer contact centre show in Toronto. In the U.S., these shows ended up featuring dozens of jursidictions.
We need to get out front.
30 Fastest Growing Occupations in the US (2008) (Source: BLS.gov)
Network systems and data communications
Personal and home care aides
Home health aides
Computer software engineers, applications
Veterinary technologists and technicians
Personal financial advisors
Makeup artists, theatrical and performance
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors
Social and human service assistants
Gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators
Physical therapist assistants
Forensic science technicians
Mental health counselors
Mental health and substance abuse social workers
Marriage and family therapists
Computer systems analysts
Computer software engineers, systems software
Gaming and sports book writers and runners
Environmental science and protection technicians, including health
Manicurists and pedicurists