My TJ column tomorrow discusses the risks associated with a prolonged period of weak economic growth. From 1997 to 2006, GDP growth was a healthly 3.2 percent per year in the province but since then it has dropped to a paltry 0.9 percent per year – the worst growth rate in Canada.
When I was going through the GDP by industry data I was disheartened to see that GDP growth from ICT has dropped from an annual average growth of $42 million per year between 1997 and 2006 to 14.9 million per year between 2006 and 2011.
This is a problem. ICT should be one of the high growth areas of the economy.
Now I read that the NRC is cutting its staff in the province.
I think the luminaries for this industry should be convened and asked bluntly how to grow this sector. Are there opportunities to stimulate more local ICT entrepreneurship? Should we attract ICT entrepreneurs from afar (as I argued last week)? Should we work even harder to figure out how to attract the big multinationals? Should we micro-target areas such as data centres? We need to – warning terrible cliche ahead – think outside the box on this. The luminaries should be asked to think beyond our borders about how we can grow this sector.
People chafe at throwing big bucks at development but there must be other alternatives. How about using personal income tax breaks to become attractive to high end ICT talent? How about making it attractive for students to get into ICT training? Can immigration be a way to stimulate ICT investment? Do we have surplus baseload power now that Lepreau is back online that could be sold to data centres cheaply rather than given to Maine Governor LePage for a song?