Jobs, jobs, jobs still matters in NB

My column today is on the importance of job creation in New Brunswick.  I mention the slow decline of the call centre industry in the province since about 2005 and I speculate that this decline will continue albeit at a moderate pace.  This is as much about technology and changing customer interaction methods than it is about outsourcing to India (although that is a part of it).  

Then I read that Wyndham is cutting 300 jobs at its SJ call centre and UPS recently announced it would be cutting 200 in Moncton.

As I say in the column this might get worse before it gets better but the folks involved in economic development can’t get discouraged.  We need a new approach – see the column for a few ideas.

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4 Responses to Jobs, jobs, jobs still matters in NB

  1. mikel says:

    Has anybody else noticed the messed up formatting on your page? Sometimes it says 2 comments when there are none (like this one), and other times it will say 4 comments when there is two.

    Anyway, while its true that this is bad news, I have to again point out that its reasons EXACTLY like this that you see so much animosity towards outside companies coming in (not by those who would get a job working there, but certainly from those that read about this stuff). I’m just pointing this out to explain why the view you talked about before is actually quite a ‘logical’ one, although not a necessary one. But there is little fear that the pizza joint thats been there for 20 years is going to root up and move to India.

    These are potential problems right from the start, thats a HUGE political problem of how to train workers for industries that don’t currently exist, and even when they do exist don’t stick around long enough to provide a lifetime’s work. It’s a BIG issue that I don’t think is addressed ANYWHERE on this continent.

  2. richard says:

    “This is no time for half measures and heightened political rhetoric”

    David, that’s from your column. Its correct, but perhaps there needs to be some concrete examples of what to do. After all, the administration seems to be in a consultative mood; perhaps they would look at some more defined proposals. A number of which have been presented in your blog in the past.

    BTW, your comment counter seems to be inaccurate. Are some comments counted but hidden, or did you contract out the counting to a staffer in the PMO?

  3. There’s actually just one central idea in the column. It is this:

    “In my view, both the provincial and federal governments need to refocus their economic development efforts away from being primarily a source of capital (a kind of bank) for small- and medium-sized businesses and toward being enablers of a broader set of factors that will make New Brunswick a place where companies will be more likely to invest.”

    This is all very fine, and I support this as written. But as usual, we need to get to the specifics of the “broader set of factors” that will be enabled, and how they will be enabled.

    To my observation, the most significant enablers have been infrastructure projects:
    – creating the four-lane highway network in NB
    – the bridge to PEI
    – investment in the internet backbone
    – Moncton airport development
    – Port facilities (Cruise ship docks, harbour dredging in Sydney)

    There have been some failures as well, the refurbishment of Point Lepreau being right up there among them.

    We should be talking about what sort of infrastructure we should be pursuing and how to evaluate the economic activity and (government) return on the investment. Right now, these are talked about almost entirely as though they were expenses, which means they are the subject of government largess, and become the targets of companies wanting lower taxes.

    We should be talking about the sorts of investments we can make as a province. Because we are a major enterprise, we do have access to capital, and can make strategic investments. Some areas of infrastructure investment include:
    – energy investments, and especially in our wind capacity
    – entertainment facilities, such as an events centre in Moncton
    – additional internet and ICT infrastructure
    – a rail link to NE U.S. (connecting the Noreaster to Via in Moncton)

    Additionally significant enablers have been cooperative ventures between government and some partners. For example:
    – City of Moncton attracting high-profile events (note that these also have an infrastructure spin-off)
    – Development of the Cranberry farm with Ocean Spray
    – Moncton Flight College

    There have been some spectacular failures as well. For example:
    – Bricklin

    The risk of failure (and not the inherent betterness of small-scale or large scale enterprises) dictates that the size of the projects be such that governments can pursue several at once. This is simply a recognition that it is not wise to place all our bets on a single investment.

    There’s a much wider range of possibilities here. Some things that strike me as promising (at least for the Moncton area):
    – wider investment in inland & salt-water fish farming
    – projects combining medical services and ICTs – helath informatics
    – destination resort capacity in Shediac, Hillsborough, Alma
    – wood products and furniture (we should be building stuff with our forests, not pulping them)

    At one time I would have wanted to see more projects involving high tech, knowledge economy, etc., but we do not have the labour force to support that. The development of local human capacity has to form the third pillar of an enablement strategy, without which we will not be able to attract and develop a workforce:
    – hospitals and health care – there are structural issues in the NB system; we need to improve patient records, scheduling and planning, drop-in and storefront clinics, and wellness support.
    – education – which is improving, but has suffered (c.f. Moncton High) from a woeful lack of investment; also needed are better adult learning opportunities, expansion of adult education and evening classes, online learning support and infrastructure, and daycare
    – immigration and immigrant support – we do almost nothing to directly recruit people to the province; we should be actively recruiting (people who are not related to us), even to the point of managing our own immigration policy as Quebec does, and providing significant immigrant support (it is *much* more efficient to help an immigrant adapt than to grow and educate a child from birth)

    Again, these are typically depicted as net expenses. This misapprehension should be corrected. Investment in these sectors is essential for several reasons:
    – people won’t move here if these are not well-supported; they want to raise their children in good systems, not poor ones (NB should be able to market itself as the place where you can move to to put your child in a “good school” without having to buy a home in Rockcliffe Park)
    – we need to expand the knowledge and skills of the population that is already here, especially that part of the population currently working in unskilled occupations

    Now – you may think these are all poor ideas, either individually or collectively. Not the point. What I would like to see is some discussion of an overall development plan that is *at least* to this level of detail. I am so tired of reading over and over an economic strategy consisting of lower taxes and handouts to Irving. There has to be more we can do, I know that the governments, past and future, have done this piecemeal, and we should put all of these on the table, debate the merits, and then make the investments.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My comment is actually not related to the column but I thought I would post it anyway since Ireland has been cited many times in this blog as an example to follow (and I have always been one of the few – maybe the only one – to raise the flag). This article by Michael Lewis on Vanity Fair is worth reading:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/business/features/2011/03/michael-lewis-ireland-201103

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