We have talked a lot on these pages about the brain drain from New Brunswick. We talk euphemistically about young people being our top export and there is good data to show a mostly steady net out-migration of young people for several decades. In addition, there is data that shows a fairly strong correlation between education level and out-migration. People with very little education tend to be less mobile.
While I am not prepared to try and counter this view, I am starting to think that a lot of bright people decide to stay here but do not find the right environment to see their ideas/talent properly exploited.
In my column last week I talked about David Jonah’s server farm idea in the late 1990s where he was proposing that Moncton become a hub for data – his idea included a ‘page’ for every resident of Moncton where they could put up personal information, share with friends, link with product/service providers, share ideas, etc. It’s a stretch of enormity to say this could have been Facebook – the confluence of events/timing that led to Facebook were almost biblical – but he did propose an early version of social media/Web 2.0 well before any of these other versions – Myspace, et. al really took office.
Maybe there isn’t enough private money sloshing around to find speculative ideas here. Maybe we rely too much on government for this even though governments are mostly hardwired to avoid risk. Maybe people roll their eyes at concepts that fall outside of a normal band.
But in the end, the concept that you have to fail before you succeed holds – even in jurisdictional terms. Tom Peters has spilled millions of barrels of ink on this issue – encouraging people to fail. To take risk. To fail quickly.
It is likely that New Brunswick’s structural challenge has included both – a brain drain of talent and a lack of oxygen for those that decide to stay.