MONCTON–Adrienne O’Pray is the president and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council, an organization made up of many of the province’s business leaders. She leads the Council in championing economic growth and entrepreneurship in New Brunswick.
Before joining the Council, O’Pray was Director of Economic Development with 3+ Corporation, Moncton’s economic development agency. She has also held executive roles with Ambir Solutions, Atlantic Lottery and xwave.
We asked her 3 questions about New Brunswick’s economy:
1. What’s happening with the business community in New Brunswick these days?
I feel that there is a lot to be excited about in New Brunswick. Start Up Canada recently selected 6 New Brunswickers to honour this year. This shows that we have a robust start-up ecosystem here that we are extremely proud of and should be promoting as a strength. Clearly, this a great place to start a business. Our next step is to look at more ways to increase the flow of investment capital into the region to support new companies. Celebrating the success of this ecosystem outside the region will help us to attract this kind of attention.
New trade agreements, particularly with Europe, position New Brunswick well to take advantage of growth given our strategic location. Knowing how to sell in these markets and take advantage of opportunities will be our next level of learning.
Labour market availability is a challenge that may not be popular to point out, however, we need to be honest with ourselves and figure out how to increase newcomers to the province. Manitoba did it, so can New Brunswick.
2. Canada went through a recession – how did that impact New Brunswick businesses?
New Brunswick has had virtually no growth in real GDP for the past 4 years. There is no question that most sectors, including NFP and public services, have experienced tightening of spending. We would really benefit from a change in perspective though…while government can be partners at the table, we have to shift our reliance away from government to get things started, and not wait for permission. Government has a role at the table yet there is a lot we can do as communities. We can initiate projects, take the lead and get results. Social Innovation Labs, co-led by the Pond-Deshpande Centre and NBSPRN, are a great example of a new way of leading deep change in our province.
3. What needs to be done to create more economic activity in New Brunswick?
Immigration! Immigration! Immigration! It may be a single-minded answer but the data is there. There are businesses in New Brunswick that are restricted in their growth because they lack the people with the right skills – high skilled and low skilled. Lack of labour to fill jobs impacts all New Brunswickers. If our locals companies have to move operations out of the province then local jobs are lost.
Having an energy policy for the province that can satisfy all stakeholders, including developers, First Nations communities and citizens concerns for the environment is critical….we are years behind on this and we risk being viewed as a ‘closed’ province when it comes to this growing and important sector. In addition to resource development, we have the research and innovation strength to lead on renewable energy and technology innovation in the sector. We are attracting global companies that know this about us…we need to believe it too…