A couple of people have asked me to describe my “all of the above” strategy for economic development. First off, I borrowed the term from Obama who talks about an “all of the above” strategy for energy development. I expand it to economic development more broadly.
I have written about this before so if you search the blog, you should get other references but in summary the All of the Above strategy involves looking at every single industry -in a deliberate way – to see if there could be opportunity for development in New Brunswick. There are over 700 NAICS codes from soy bean farming to local government administration and I would put 4-5 cracker jack researchers in a room and have them evaluate every single one. What is the state of this industry in New Brunswick? What are the trends across North America and beyond? Do we have anything interesting or unique to offer the industry? Do we have other elements of a value proposition for that industry? Are there local champions in New Brunswick (i.e. companies) that might help us think through how we can develop that industry here?
Again, I’m not talking about Soviet style central planning or even some grand industrial policy.
The example I used in my column yesterday was engineering. For some reason, the industry has added something like 1,000 jobs in the last year or so and has been growing for several years. Why? Is it export-based? Several of New Brunswick’s big engineering firms were acquired in the past few years. Are they growing here? The point is to determine if there are exportable services that can be built upon in that sector and what could be the role of the universities, colleges, R&D providers, government, industry associations, etc.
I find economic development in New Brunswick tends to get locked into a) the usual suspect industries and b) the banking mode. We aren’t looking at the potential of NAICS 54142 Industrial Design Services – because we never have. Maybe there is no opportunity here. Maybe there is. We don’t know because we are too busy being a bank for small business.