As you know my two big themes in economic development these days are value proposition and networks. The latter builds the former. If you realize that creating an environment where an industry can prosper requires dozens if not hundreds of various stakeholders, than networks will achieve primacy. The value proposition depends not just on an economic development agency, or a government department, or an industry association or a group of suppliers or an educational institution or an airport or a highway or a community’s living environment or a tax structure or a building or – you get the picture.
Communities that will be successful building 21st century industries will be those that understand these linkages and build networks.
But, as I am known to offer more theory and less practice, let me give you a practical example.
I was asked this week about what can be done when you have an industry that has potential for growth but is so nascent that the value proposition is not particularly strong. How can you whip up interest and begin the animation process of a growth cluster?
We have few examples but the call centre one – that everyone loves to hate – has relevance here. Beyond NBTel, which was a key animator, the province knew the importance of attracting a few lead players to seed the industry. CAMCO was one of the first customer contact centres attracted to New Brunswick and they were given $23,000 per job to set up in Moncton. That is between 2 and 4 times more than the amount given to subsequent call centres. The point is not the money. The point is that the government realized it would have to do even more to get those lead anchors for the industry.
Again, this is not just about money. Governments have a variety of levers to promote the attraction of those few initial industry partners that will anchor a growth strategy. They could use R&D. They could use tax-based incentives. They could themselves be the draw. A company could set up in New Brunswick as the result of a large government contract (say e-Health or CGI’s eGov) and then anchor a broader growth effort.