Just a quick follow up on my comments with Terry Seguin on CBC this morning. I respect Minister Valcourt but his view of the Enterprise agencies seemed to be very unidimensional. Maybe this is based on his experience with rural RDAs in Atlantic Canada. He suggested in his comments that all the agencies did was connect entrepreneurs with government funding programs and that getting rid of them would reduce duplication and bring ‘clients’ closer to the programs.
It’s a bit sad that Enterprise agencies are viewed as only the tellers for government funding programs. I suspect that when Bud Bird spearheaded the GFEDC back in the 1990s (the precursor to Enterprise Fredericton) he never envisioned it as an organization that would be only about connecting SMEs to government funding. I guess the irony is that federal and provincial funding of the Enterprise agencies was given so they would act as the teller.
But as I have said repeatedly here and elsewhere, local economic development agencies are advocates for development in their region. They work on sector development, they work with key stakeholders such as government and universities to make the area attractive for investment and talent. They celebrate success and vigorously promote their communities.
There is virtually no way the provincial government can take on that role. You can’t advocate into the mirror.
The other thing is that without a local economic develpment agency, it is harder to engage the private sector. I know there will be those that disagree with me on this but the RDA structure – with a private sector-led board – should be a better vehicle for private sector engagement.
As I pointed out in my interview the Greater Halifax Partnership attracts more than a million dollars a year in private sector funding and Enterprise Greater Moncton around $230,000. This is above and beyond the hundreds and thousands of hours’ worth of volunteer time by business and community leaders.
Let’s not lose that in the name of efficiency. If Minister Valcourt doesn’t want local agencies doing small business counselling and government program matching, fair enough, but that should only be one small part of what an effective regional develompent agency does.