Innovation or common sense?

  • Laurie
  • 2017-08-30




Gleaner Column

Chapter 8 - Innovation or common sense to leverage assets and create jobs?

Did you know that there is $7.2 billion of potential investment and 5,000 jobs projected for New Brunswick over the next five years in major natural resource development projects according to economists?  Did you know that at the stroke of a pen, $2.2 billion has been deducted from the equation for shale gas development? Including the latter, these mega projects originally projected peak employment demand of 8,600 positions from 2017-18, and 28,000 by 2025.  With a provincial deficit expected to hit $13.4 billion by next year, as New Brunswickers, we need to be open to new, innovative ways of generating prosperity and jobs for future generations.  When are we going to project a truly open-for-business philosophy and proactive approach to grow our province?

This is why Ignite Fredericton launched its Natural Resource Development & Energy Task Force in 2015, and has identified natural resource development as a key growth sector in our investment attraction strategy. Please take a look at Ignite’s sector profiles to gain an appreciation for what Natural Resources [oil/gas, mining, forestry and agri-technology] means for our region. You will be surprised and very impressed!

Ignite’s Natural Resources & Energy Task Force was created to maximize economic opportunities with respect to responsible natural resource projects in the coming years as recommended in the region’s Vision 2020 Economic Development Strategy.

Over 20 strategically aligned stakeholders from local business agencies, project proponents and educational institutions joined the task force to leverage upcoming projects, and create opportunities for economic growth through responsible natural resource development in the next five years by:

Connecting local businesses with supply chain and procurement opportunities.
Skilling up for jobs and creating specialized, expert world-wide talent within our region.
Facilitating a clustering environment to attract FDI and spur growth of new startups.

As a result of our work, supported by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, Fredericton was also selected as one of five of ‘Canada’s Resource Cities’ by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. 

New Brunswick was founded on natural resource development, currently representing $3.98 billion in annual GDP, and employing 30,000 people. Fredericton’s natural resources sector accounts for $600 million and employing 5,000 people. With the creation of the task force, the region hopes to cultivate a stronger and expertly-skilled workforce in natural resources.  Did you know that over 25 per cent of University of New Brunswick graduates already work in natural resources and related fields, and five of the university’s research chairs and six research centres are related to natural resources?  Being in the epicenter of natural resources R&D, we are in a unique position to leverage this expertise for developing new innovative technologies and efficiencies for responsible resource development. 

There are also over 350 local businesses providing products and services to the natural resources sector.  Imagine the exponential growth, opportunities for new startups, and the potential to attract new investment--if the major projects come to fruition.

Check out Ignite’s Business Profile Series to learn about some of the local businesses playing in this space:

Rally Engineering expanded from Alberta to Fredericton due to their particular expertise with respect to energy and resource development.
Resson Aerospace soared through Planet Hatch’s accelerator program, and has launched a mega successful startup bridging bioinformatics, agriculture and aerospace/drone technology.
Simptek Technologies, another Planet Hatch/Ignite graduate, enables homeowners to understand and manage their electricity consumption by providing an easy-to-use energy dashboard, providing tailored energy recommendations.

These are just a few examples of the successful, innovative companies in natural resource and energy development.

So my message, in relation to a previous column, is that there are jobs in the ‘pipeline’ for our children, and there is the potential to dig New Brunswick out of its massive provincial deficit, but we need to be open to new opportunities and possibilities. 

The Sisson Partnership has invested over $50 million in the proposed tungsten/molybdenum project to date, and is still awaiting a Federal Government decision on its Environmental Assessment Report which was submitted in July, 2013. While we applaud the regulatory agencies’ work to ensure proper environmental oversight on these projects, it is equally important they make decisions within a reasonable time frame to encourage further development and investment capital in New Brunswick.  What type of message does this send to the world about being open for business and investment, when it takes over three years to reach a decision?  In the future, Ignite Fredericton encourages a more expedient, progressive approach between the provincial and federal environmental assessment processes.

In addition to deterring investment, we also currently have 47 newly skilled graduates of NBCC and CCNB archaeological programs, who are being negatively impacted because of approval delays.  JEDI has also trained over 500 Aboriginal learners under the New Brunswick Aboriginal Mining, Energy and Trades project between 2013-2016, proactively skilling up for these projects.

We are losing our university and college talent as they leave the province for other opportunities.  Let’s get these projects moving!

Laurie Guthrie, EcD, BIS
Economic Development & Marketing Specialist
Ignite Fredericton | Knowledge Park | Planet Hatch