On Golden Pond

Billy Ray: A canoe! Just like the Indians used.
Norman: Actually, the Indians used a different grade of aluminum.

Quote from On Golden Pond (1981)

I ran into Gerry Pond, former President & CEO of NBTel, this week and had the opportunity to have a thoughtful chat about economic development, Aliant and a bit of politics. He’s still as fiesty and insightful as ever and making a big contribution to New Brunswick – particularly in Saint John.

Hence the ‘Golden Pond’ reference – don’t be too dense.

But it struck me during our brief conversation that Gerry Pond was more than just the CEO of NBTel (and before that a senior executive). He was truly a booster and supporter of economic development in New Brunswick. Consider NBTel for a moment. If you go beyond the wildly successful call centre initiative – which NBTel played a key role – I was there and I should know, there was just a host of companies and innovative ideas incubated by NBTel that contributed to the province’s reputation of being a ‘living lab’ for IT innovation. There was New North Media, NBTelInteractive, Genesys Canada, X-Wave, Innovatia, to name a few – some prospered others not – but NBTel was an incubator of ideas and innovation – and it served the company and the province well.

Times have changed and I am not going to criticized Aliant in this blog. I have a lot of friends and ex colleagues there and I think it’s still a great company. Suffice it to say, however; that it’s secondary role as dominant influencer of innovation in New Brunswick has passed.

Now, as I reflect ten years later – I can’t help but sigh. New Brunswick is no longer a ‘living lab’ – unless you are talking about innovative EI reforms and Equalization programs. We are dead last in the county for households using the Internet. Our business community is among the slowest adopters of the Internet in their operations. Our call centre industry never did evolve into the ‘next generation’ of higher value call centres. The Province’s IT industry doesn’t even have an industry association – it’s so small and fragmented). And the capper, there has been almost no growth in IT employment since 2000 – that’s six years folks. And our leaders say we are too small for Research in Motion. Sigh.

But take a cue from the grizzled old veteran – Gerry Pond. He told me he doesn’t have much time for grumbling or complaining. He’s more interested in ideas and go foward solutions.

Touché Gerry, touché.

Even though I’m no spring chicken, as I talked with Gerry, the words of an old Cockburn song ran through my mind. Check out the third paragraph – just remove the references to ‘ragged’ and ‘bummed’.

A Montreal Song
From: Further Adventures Of (1978) – Bruce Cockburn

I turned on the TV war news
just to look and wonder why.
Thunder crashed and red flash-flowers
bloomed a nightmare in the sky.

So i went down to the cafe
just to string myself along.
On the way i found some riches —
played the jukebox, got this song.

While i sat there a ragged man came —
bummed a coffee, talked awhile.
Told me stories full of wonder —
left me laughing like a well-loved child.