MONCTON – The Hub City has announced an ambitious growth plan, one that calls for three-to-four per cent GDP growth a year for the next five-years.
The average annual GDP growth for the region was 1.6 per cent from 2012-17, and more than 4 per cent from 1994-2005. The Conference Board of Canada projects 1.9 per cent growth from 2018-2021.
“These are the numbers we need to strive for in order to maintain the growth levels we’ve seen in the past. And if we don’t, well, we were managing slower growth or you know, sometimes stagnation. And we cannot afford to stagnate,” he said. “We are at a position that we know about certain challenges. The challenges have been there for 30 years, but now we’re coming to a point where we need to address them.”
The targets, which include up to two per cent population growth and 1.5 per cent labour market growth a year, would force stakeholders to be nimble and think differently.
“I think our nimbleness is going to be very important over the next few years,” he said. “I want the universities, our staff and businesses to think differently because they’re going to have their own growth issues themselves.”
The initiative is the first regional economic development plan created together by Dieppe, Moncton, Riverview and 3Plus, the tri-community’s economic development agency.
It aims to attract more national and international firms to the region, nurture business expansion activities, and develop workforce-based programs that would boost business investment. It also wants to see the creation of 20 to 30 startups a year.
The plan wants to make the region “the leading multicultural, innovative and creative urban centre in Eastern Canada.”
President and CEO Eric Mourant said to close the gap in the labour force and increase the population base, stakeholders need to more than double the number of immigrants from 961 a year to at least 2,000.
“With the same resources we need to accomplish more than twice as much,” he said. “For this to work, it has to be a collaborative regional effort.”
Despite the heightened focus on welcoming and integrating newcomers, Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre pointed out that the room still lacks diversity.
I’m here to tell you, as I look through this room that minorities are very much a minority. And we need to change that. We need to change that, like, quick,” he said.
“In your future recruitment efforts, please consider hiring immigrants. Please consider the possibility of hiring candidates right out of colleges and universities, and make them high-valued employees in your corporations,” Mourant said.
Bill Hennessey, the managing director of developer Platinum Atlantic Realty, said he’s excited about the regional focus of the strategy. He also believes businesses should take a chance on youth. The developer’s youngest employee spurred the use of virtual reality technology to help sell condos being built at FiveFive Queen.
“I think it’s a very good idea because our organization hired a kid shortly out of high school and he’s turned out to be a rock star,” he said.
“But also in general, I think, the message is, we don’t need to hire experienced people. Bring in people, work with them, help them evolve, and they can become some of your best employees. I think that’s something we should do anyway.”
Tracy Clinch, the president and CEO of Masitek Instruments and member of the board of 3Plus’s Economic Leadership Council, said the innovation side of the strategy will benefit her company.
Masitek Instruments makes sensors that identify problems on the production lines of food and beverage companies. It has exported to 35 countries, mainly in Europe and Asia.
“Anything that would drive economic development and the initiative of driving innovation in the region would benefit us by having that expertise and attracting new people, and attracting talent to the area so we can build our teams and grow our businesses,” she said.
“Looking for talent in other countries and bringing them to this area is a great initiative, and we have hired people from other countries to work in our organization and it has worked out fantastically well.”
3Plus will create a work plan this year to execute the vision of the 2018-2022 strategy.