You can’t deny the TJ editorial writers the occasional rhetorical flourish. There is a good editorial today that ends with the phrase:
With a shift in policy, ACOA could become the midwife to a new Atlantic economy – one fuelled by entrepreneurialism and innovation. That is its mandate, and the objective matters more today than it ever has.
I still think that those two words ‘entrepreneurialism’ and ‘innovation’ have been the target of ACOA for over 20 years (check that, innovation just became a high priority a few years ago with the launch of the AIF).
But I still think the issue is our collective need for more business investment (in non-local sectors) to fuel job creation and economic growth. Limited ACOA’s scope to entrepreneurialism and innovation (which in ACOA’s case means innovation among the region’s entrepreneurs) ignores the reality that the Atlantic economy – particularly the New Brunswick economy – hasn’t shown the capacity to generate enough new business investment to sustain itself.
I think we need a broader strategy that focuses on key sectors and promotes growth in those sectors near, far and wide. I am not talking about only focusing on national and international firms – far from it. Any efforts should be open to one and all.
But the more I think this through, the more I think that ACOA should be transformed into an IPA (investment promotion agency) for the Atl. region or at least 33/33/33 – 33% IPA, 33% trade development and 33% entrepreneurship fostering (incl. R&D support).
I think this hope that local entrepreneurs are going to come out of the woodwork and save the economy is a false dream. It has been ACOA’s mandate since 1987 – just about the time the region’s population started to stagnate and fall into decline.
I’m not blaming ACOA for the region’s population decline. I think there are many success stories that were supported by ACOA and I think those that deny this just should look around. But it hasn’t been nearly enough and I think at some point we have to come to the realization that we can’t get to a prosperous and dynamic economy only through efforts to grow local firms.