At the JA Business Hall of Fame dinner on Tuesday night I asked a couple of my colleagues to answer a question: When you look back on this time in New Brunswick (after retirement), what will be your recollections? Will we be remembering those heady, exciting days when the economy was booming and immigrants were pouring in? Will we point to the fact that New Brunswick finally broke out – after more than a century? Will we be talking about the “good old days”?
There was some chuckling and snippit commentary but suffice it to say that there is not much optimism in that group about this time in our history being anything more that mediocre. One of my colleagues indicated the self-sufficiency agenda could have been such as catalyst but he didn’t see anything really happening after three years.
I can’t really see it either. I think we may look back and talk about Moncton’s transformation in the 1990s (that is already an example used when I attended conferences in Halifax and Cape Breton recenty) but New Brunswick as a whole?
Based on what I see right now I think we are in for a period of extended mediocrity. One of the people I was talking to has knowledge of the call centre industry and thinks that there will be some consolidation and reduction coming. I have been predicting that although so far I have been proven wrong. Intuitively as we do more and more on the Web – banking, hotel reservations, parcel tracking, etc. – there should be less need for call centre agents.
The forestry industry is likely to come back but never to the level of the early 2000s (at least not until 2040 or so). Mining? The sector that Cecil Freeman said would bring us Alberta-style opportunity? Maybe but we haven’t seen it so far.
It takes a lot to build an industry from a few local firms with a few hundred jobs to a global powerhouse employing thousands. It was done in this province with customer contact centres but beyond that, not much.
With the focus mostly elsewhere, it is unlikely to happen.
But mediocrity is not that bad. It is better than catastrophe.