Weird comparison

The TJ had a story yesterday talking about how Saint John can learn from Fort McMurray’s explosive growth. Has anyone seen any real job or population growth forecasts for this growth?

I am thrilled about Saint John’s potential growth but the way people are talking you would think SJ was Fort McMurray. By my calculation even if the new refinery and the second Lepreau reactor is built – it will only be about 1,200 new jobs – maybe 1,500 – after the construction phase.

There are two issues, to be sure. The construction phase for these projects will bring in a lot of temporary workers and that will create a short term economic boom but Bob Manning is talking about an explosion in the local population in the school system. These construction workers are bringing their kids?

I know that Enterprise Saint John has a number of good sector development strategies on the go. The Bangor-SJ Corridor. There is work to develop the high tech/IT sector and strategies to try and leverage the new energy infrastructure into much more economic development.

But remember that there was a refinery built before and a nuclear power plant and did these two projects lead into thousands of new jobs? A boom in student population? Thousands of executive condominiums on the waterfront? Just building another couple of large energy infrastructure projects is no guarantee of long term economic success.

Saint John has some of the top minds in regional economic development. Bob Manning is one of the finest examples of a private sector guy playing an out front role in economic development. But I hope (and I suspect this is true) that there is a broader strategy in play than just a couple of large infrastructure projects.

However, I have not seen any growth forecasts. If you have seen any report or data that shows tens of thousands of new jobs over the next 10-20 years, please send me the link.

Remember, the Self Sufficiency plan called for another 100,000 high paying jobs and for the rest of us to get a 20% increase in wages. For this to happen, Saint John will have to play a lead role. But 1,500 jobs in an oil and nuclear factory will not be enough.