Sometimes it takes an outsider to crystalize things on an issue. I spent an hour this afternoon talking with a U.S. researcher who is studying efforts to lure jobs and investment from one province to another in Canada. We were chatting about the McKenna years and his highly visible efforts – in the national press – to attract industry.
He told me he completed an exhaustive search of the Lexis Nexis news database and the references to efforts to attract industry to New Brunswick dried up after McKenna left in 1997. He wondered why and asked me to provide examples post-McKenna. I thought about it and came up with a few like Molson but on the whole there hasn’t been much activity in the past decade or more.
I did an analysis a few years ago of every BNB press release related to companies moving into New Brunswick or national/international companies here that had expanded with BNB help. If I recall correctly the period was around 2000 to 2005. During that timeframe, other than some call centres (VAS out of Chicago dominated) – mostly expansions of firms already here – there wasn’t much in the way of new activity. I think it was about 85% of all new jobs were call centre expansions.
Since then there have been a few but not many. A quick scan of BNB press releases today reveals the vast majority of effort is going to retain the companies we have in the face of the recession (retention jobs).
It’s a tough time to be attracting investment to be sure but many of McKenna’s biggest projects were started in the recession of the early 1990s.
It was interesting to get an American researcher’s perspective on this stuff.