When I was offered the role of CEO of Opportunities NB (ONB) five years ago, I was anxious to see just how much our province had changed since I left after high school. What I have seen since my return leaves me with a great deal of optimism, and confidence that New Brunswick is on the right path.
With the creation of ONB, our priority was to ensure a strong focus on culture. We knew that for any organization, particularly a new one like ours, a well-defined culture was essential. We looked to build a culture of success, collaboration, and positivity. We knew that with the right culture we would attract the right talent, and with the right talent, we would achieve great results.
Fortunately, we were correct. As a team, ONB produced the best economic development results in Canada on a per capita basis and the best results in our province in over 20 years. We generated a significant return on investment for the province and helped support over 1,000 New Brunswick businesses via international trade missions, scale up programs, workforce development, and financial assistance — all without the loss of any taxpayer money on any of our deals. Speaking directly to that culture focus, ONB was named one of Atlantic Canada’s Top Employers for four consecutive years and has been recognized as one of the country’s most admired corporate cultures. Through it all, we became one of the most transparent economic development agencies in North America. A visit to the transparency section of our website shows the companies we’ve worked with and the amount of investment ONB has undertaken in each case.
We leveraged our world-class cybersecurity resources and launched CyberNB, which has further solidified New Brunswick as the country’s cybersecurity epicentre. We established a Workforce Strategy Team to help both homegrown and international companies meet their talent needs in our province – we remain one of the only economic development groups in North America to offer that value-added service. Our India strategy is already paying dividends, with companies like Tech Mahindra, Sedin Technologies, and HCL establishing new operations in our province. We continued to solidify New Brunswick as a world-class ICT hub and positioned the province to lead in Digital Health through a new strategy that encourages innovation and job creation.
We helped lead the energized private sector initiative and implemented the Business Navigators program. These Navigators provide one-on-one support for companies navigating the regulatory challenges associated with starting and operating a business.
Through the efforts of everyone actively involved in improving New Brunswick’s future, we’ve seen the province’s population, after years of decline, rise since 2015 — much of that driven by increased immigration. January 2020 saw the province’s job count hit a 10-year high of 360, 900, the highest since November 2009. By attracting new investment from globally-recognized companies (TD Bank, HCL, IBM, etc), we have seen a real uptick in our population and the provincial economy. Migration from Western and Central Canada helped give Greater Saint John its best year ever in terms of home sales. New structures are going up across Greater Moncton thanks to a boom in construction. Cranes are at work in Fredericton as well, with new buildings like the Cyber Centre being built to handle that sector’s growth. In fact, commercial vacancy rates are down in all three of the province’s major cities according to a new survey from Turner Drake.
Some people may wonder how these improvements happen – we don’t. None of it is a surprise to our team and our incredible partners and stakeholders. As we say at ONB all the time: great things are happening in New Brunswick.
I have been fortunate to spend the past few months working closely with the government, our Board Chair, and those same partners and stakeholders to develop a new mandate for ONB. I step away from this role knowing that New Brunswick is in good hands and, thanks to my team and our many partners, is in a better place today than when I took this role five years ago.
I am so proud of my team and I look forward to continuing to be a strong advocate for this great province.
CEO, Opportunities NB