Someone recently posted the pollster Don Mills’ Seven Actions to Grow the Economy. Mills is primarily known as Atlantic Canada’s pollster as head of the firm Corporate Research Associates Inc. In recent years, he has redefined himself as the Jeremiah of Atlantic Canada’s future – woe are we if we don’t get serious about economic growth.
For the most part, I think Mills’ seven jeremiads could come right out of one of my presentations:
1. Retaining our youth
2. Educating the world
3. Building an entrepreneurial environment
4. Increasing the population
5. Re-balancing the workforce
6. Creating urban centered economic zones
7. Developing an export oriented economy
I, too, have been putting a greater focus on education these days. It’s a great way to attract people to the region to test drive living here and even if they leave after graduate – who cares? The region benefited from the high value economic activity while they were here.
I am a little more wary about this ‘retaining our youth’ idea because many people use it as a euphemism for restricting immigration. Besides, a lot of the most interesting people I know were born here but spent 5-10 years living elsewhere. If I had a genie with three wishes one of them would be that every New Brunswickers live for a while in another place – I think it would broaden our collective perspective.
The export-oriented economy is also key – because when you look closely at the data we actually don’t export much other than the big stuff – fish, lumber, paper, refined oil, etc. and there isn’t much growth in those areas. I would like to see a lot more services sector exports – professional services, business services, etc. We have some good examples already – engineering, contact centres, etc. – we should build on this.
Ultimately Mills’ challenge is that there are an increasing number of old timers driving the wrong way on the Don Mills Growth Way – I mean that literally and figuratively.