Which way forward?
Top (l-r): Carole-Ann Miller, President Maple Trade Finance Inc.; Scott Ferguson, President & CEO Trade Centre Limited; Malcolm Fraser, CEO ISL; Jean-Paul Deveau, President Acadian Seaplants; Joyce Carter, CEO Halifax International Airport Authority. Bottom (l-r): Ian Wilson, President Wilson Fuel Co.; Dianne Kelderman, President and CEO Nova Scotia Co-operative Council; Richard Florizone, President Dalhousie University; Chuck Cartmill, CEO LED Roadway Lighting; Phil Otto, CEO Revolve
Ray Ivany didn’t sugar-coat it. Nova Scotia is in financial distress and the same old medicine won’t revive the patient.
In his report, Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians, the president of Acadia University says without radical change, the combination of demography and sluggish economic growth will erode the lifestyle that has kept baby boomers smiling brightly.
At its core, there is nothing new in the report. Ivany has simply presented the facts in an in-your-face style that makes it tougher for business leaders and community advocates to ignore.
Ivany sees the way forward by boosting immigration, increasing exports, nurturing start-ups and modernizing traditional industries. Halifax Magazine spoke with 10 local business leaders and asked them what they think of the report, and what Nova Scotia should do next.
Maple Trade Finance Inc.
As a trade finance company, we are supporting exporters… Our biggest competition here is not the banks but NSBI, which is still handing out money. Working in 40 countries, we celebrate diversity and understand the value of immigration. We’ve brought new people into Nova Scotia and twice won awards as the best employer for new Canadians. The report suggests we need attitudinal changes. I agree. We are horrible at celebrating our successes.
President & CEO
Trade Centre Limited
The new Halifax Convention Centre can be a significant economic development tool for Nova Scotia. When we host a conference, we become the world capital for that discipline, showcasing our best and brightest. But we need to use the time in advance of transformational opportunities like this more effectively. Because our community often works in silos, or is territorial, we fail to act on new ideas and opportunities. We need to start acting like start-up firms and activate quickly. At Trade Centre Limited, we’re working to make sure the convention centre can be a vehicle to connect groups, partners and individuals with new opportunities.
We put a lot of energy into hiring people from away. We also hire a lot of junior people and give them the training and experience necessary to contribute economically to the province. We invest in the community and we offer our development advice when asked. We have done work across North America and Europe and over the next few years, consistent with the Ivany Report, we are going to focus on selling outside our region, which should bring economic benefit back to Nova Scotia.
The Ivany Report was an endorsement of the work we are continuing to do in exporting. We export across the globe and have employees in seven countries. It is so much part of our corporate DNA we don’t think anything of it anymore. If you have a value added product that you can market internationally, you’ll never have to worry about demographics at home. Exporting is a challenge, but it is doable if you are prepared to make the investment to put together a team and put together the patient capital required. A lot of talented organizations can do it; they just have to take the first step.
Halifax International Airport Authority
As an organization that is significant economic engine for Nova Scotia, we continue to make significant investments in infrastructure and build the global air bridges to support vital immigration. We share the urgency reflected in the report. We have asked the provincial government to take the report seriously and move quickly to address the concerns raised. We are specifically urging the government to work on new goals for sustainable economic growth and population renewal. To that end, we have offered to provide whatever assistance or participation the provincial government feels is appropriate.
Wilson Fuel Co.
If we are starting out of the gate with a new economic-development strategy, we’re not starting out from the best of places. The situation is dire, but it’s not hopeless. The first step is to recognize we have to change… If the government says they have to make some cuts to improve the fiscal challenge, we have to understand. As a business, we try our hardest all the time. We are not highly involved in exports and we are not involved in manufacturing anymore, but we try to be innovative and embrace technology to fuel growth. Business has a role to play, absolutely, but there are elements that fall squarely at the feet of government, like setting immigration numbers or creating a tax regime that will allow a business to grow. We are standing in the water and the level is rising. Everyone needs to be part of the solution.
President and CEO
Nova Scotia Co-operative Council
Actions speak louder than words. We urge our members to stop expecting government to solve every problem. We ask them to look for opportunities in challenges and we provide them the support to expand their businesses and start new ones. We should all be working harder to keep some of our investment money (RRSPs), at home by looking for opportunities for CEDIFs. We need to support and embrace municipal reform and hold our elected officials at all levels accountable.
I was pleased to see the Ivany Report make explicit mention of the important leadership role universities and colleges can and do play in areas such as research and development, the creation of start-ups and attracting and retaining talent. Two collaborative projects underway that build on the commission’s recommendations include hosting two collaborative sandbox spaces funded by the Province to incubate student business concepts, and partnering with other Halifax universities and HRM to form a new Halifax Higher Education Partnership focused on positioning the city as a global destination for higher education.
LED Roadway Lighting
The Ivany Report is a good situational review and a strategy, but it is not a plan. We need a long-term plan with a focus on local applied research, development and commercialization. We need a government that is quick and nimble and willing to offer incentives in winning sectors like IT, energy efficiency and high tech that have big export potential. At LED Roadway we support immigration by offering skilled jobs to international students and I invest heavily in applied research and development. If there’s a dollar left at the end of the day, I put it into R&D and commercialization.
Nova Scotia’s business leaders need to get their hearts and minds around the fundamental culture shift the Ivany Report is calling for. Private industry will be the catalyst for change to make Nova Scotia a better place to live and where our children will want to raise their own families. We cannot rely on government to move us forward. This is not about taxes or government spending or cutbacks or subsidies. This is about private industry leveraging its resources and knowledge and influence to change the way Nova Scotians think to foster a culture of success. It is about attitude, collaboration and cooperation and focusing on a few things we can be the best in the world at. Culture change is not an easy task, nor does it happen quickly but as the single most powerful tool to engage our citizens and initiate change, we are prepared to help make it happen.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.