As most of you know I had the opportunity to work with the Business Council on an economic development roadmap for Northern New Brunswick a few months back. It looks like at least one of my recommendations will be implemented.
I think it is important to reiterate that a new focus on economic development in the North does not mean (or should not mean) less of a focus on the three urban centres in the South. All three have specific opportunities and need to be at the fore of NB’s economic development efforts. For me it’s never been an either/or situation.
There was an article in the newspaper last week or maybe the week before that about a group coming to New Brunswick to look at the potential of investing here. The person quoted said something like this – we intend to tour the province – we start in Fredericton and then on to Saint John and Moncton. Northern New Brunswick doesn’t tend to be seriously on the map in terms of attracting business investment but we know from UMOE and Ocean Spray that it is possible. The value proposition has to be right and I hope that a considerable amount of attention is given to bulking up the business case for investing in the North.
I hope this team in the North is sales-oriented and not banker-oriented. We need to attract significant new business investment to the region and that will require a new sales effort (towards internal companies and those in the global marketplace).
I’d like to see tax-based incentive programs but I am not holding my breath on that one.
Finally, to the poster that is worried this is more duplication of all the activity in the North right now, your concerns are valid. I do think that there needs to be some better coordination – and possibly some consolidation – but the overriding principle needs to be the effort to rebuilt an economy that has been struggling. Not rebuilding through massive new subsidies or making EI more attractive but through building a strong value proposition that leads to export-oriented local entrepreneurs expanding and more firms like UMOE setting up there.
In that great movie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks – I think it’s Angela Lounsbury singing – there is a song that is appropriate:
Watch the tiny totters
Inching up a hill
It may seem to you he’s merely standing still
Though the steps he takes are infinitely small
They’re a step in the right direction after all
I have three small kids. Where do you think I am going to get my musical influences?