I have participated in four panel/round table discussions in the past few weeks. I like getting out there and meeting folks and discussing economic development. We don’t always agree – in fact there can be sharp disagreement – but for me it is good to take it outside the theoretical realm and into the trenches.
I will say that there continues to be an over-romanticization of small business in this region and an overly sharp distrust and suspicion of large business or multinationals. I continue to find this attitude not only among the populace but also among business leaders and government bureaucrats.
I find this disturbing and a hard nut to crack.
The truth is that small biz, large biz, multinational investment all play a role in a successful economy. It is also true that there are ‘bad’ large corporation and ‘bad’ small, local businesses (defined however you want). I still remember visiting a relatively small, local manufacturing firm in the 1990s in August. It was, by definition, a sweatshop – the huge fans were blowing and the male workers had all but stripped down to their shorts. I found out later that the owner paid his workers – for this gruelling work – between $8-$10/hour and laid them off between contracts (forcing usage of the EI system). Now this guy was romanticized by a lot of folks as a great and successful entrepreneur but you do the math.
Now, of course, there are similar stories with large firms as well.
You can’t replace a lost mill or huge industrial operation by encouraging a bunch of small businesses. I have never witnesses this approach achieve success.