Monday, December 14, 2009

Do something different - Part 3

Pictou County is losing student population and in social decline. This is content of the third in a series of letters on this topic published in Pictou County's daily paper, The News.

In Part 2, I urged our county‘s elected leadership (mayors, councillors and MLAs) plus the Pictou Regional Development Commission (PRDC) to begin doing something different and I ended with the rhetorical question, “But what?” Before beginning with PRDC and providing my answer, I should say why I believe the fine, intelligent and very capable people at PRDC are on the wrong track and how we all put them there.

Industrial Estates Limited (IEL) was a Nova Scotia Crown corporation established in 1963 with a $23 million start-up investment by premier Robert Stanfield's government. Its mandate from the government according to Wikipedia was, “to build industrial parks and lease space to companies, through an aggressive pursuit of outside investment.”

Pictou County’s Frank Sobey was the first president of IEL and he was very effective in attracting new companies to the province by building and financing plants for companies that were willing to move to Nova Scotia. By 1968, 60 firms had benefited from the program, producing 10,000 new jobs and $40 million in provincial revenue. During the 1960s and early 1970s, IEL played an important part in modernizing Nova Scotia’s economy. Pictou County benefited with the addition of Michelin Tire and Scott Paper to its industrial base. So says Wikipedia.

IEL was a Canadian wonder! It put our premier, Robert Stanfield, on the main stage of federal politics. In the three to four decades since the 1970s, I believe our provincial RDAs including our own PRDC and its predecessor, PICORD, have been trying to recreate IEL with new initials. However, what we have all failed to see is that the real catalyst behind that phenomenal industrial expansion was not IEL. The real magic was Frank Sobey! And he was a local asset that only God could create for us. My great concern is that God is probably creating such assets for us now but we will wave goodbye and send them off to Calgary or elsewhere before we recognize them. But OK, to PRDC.

I wish PRDC would recognize that strategic planning is business planning and it is inappropriate for a community which is a very different construct from a business. With a business, you try to carve out a niche in the market. You get rid of the deadwood by picking and choosing the very best staff and resources so that your product is better than the rest and can compete to make a profit for you in the market.

A community on the other hand is the whole ball of wax. Unlike business, there is no picking and choosing in your community. You have it all – the good, the bad and the ugly! Your plans should include the rich, the poor and everyone in between; the employed and the unemployed; the smart and the stupid; the clergy, the police and the criminal element, etc. A community is a multi-sectoral construct with at least 12interrelated sectors and truly very different from a business. But I’m out of space again.

Next week I’ll expand this last thought, deal with what elected officials should do differently and, perhaps if space allows, begin building a transportation sector plan to establish a bus transit service for everyone in Pictou County – without raising municipal taxes.The End - Return to main page

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