Opportunities NB (ONB) understands that seeing our economy recover from this challenging year is important to all New Brunswickers. We are working hard to make this happen and are already seeing results. New Brunswick is beginning to witness positive economic trends and successes that will position us for further economic growth.
There are many great examples of New Brunswick businesses stepping up by investing in productivity, increasing their exports, investing in both local and international talent, and more.
ONB CEO Sadie Perron says that in her first full year with the organization, she has come to understand just how many incredible business opportunities exist in every corner of the province. “As we continue to execute on our mandate, it’s important for people to recognize that every region of New Brunswick is going to contribute to our economic recovery and growth,” says Perron.
Resilience and a Rise in Confidence
Between June and December 2020, Perron met directly with 35 ONB clients to learn about their priorities, opportunities, and challenges. The goal was simply to listen and understand how ONB could work with these companies to help them grow. “What’s impressed me most is the resilience in the face of the pandemic and the challenges it brought it with it.”
She notes that while COVID-19 has challenged everyone, people are still moving here, and companies are investing, pivoting to new products, and tapping into new markets. She points out that recent data from Statistics Canada noted that New Brunswick is the only Atlantic province where non-residential capital expenditures are expected to increase throughout 2021, which placed us second overall in Canada in terms of percentage growth.
“Business confidence is clearly there, and we continue to successfully make the case that New Brunswick is a great place to do business,” Perron says. Part of the reason for that confidence has to do with how well we have fared throughout this pandemic, but it is more than that. “New Brunswick companies see the growth opportunities both at home and abroad and are confident in their ability to translate opportunity into success.”
The New Brunswick Advantage
Access to top talent is crucial for companies of every size. Companies need easy access to qualified individuals and enough supply. With Population Growth and their team of student integration, immigration, workforce attraction, and settlement specialists now under the ONB umbrella, business clients are even better served than previously. “We work with our clients to assess their talent needs, and utilize all available tools including immigration to fill their vacant roles,” says Perron. “We will always aim to find homegrown talent to fill these roles. However, we recognize that’s not always possible. We come to the table with real and immediate solutions to address our client’s most pressing concerns.”
Agility in the Face of Challenge
Perron feels it’s essential to demonstrate, through marketing and communications efforts, just how swiftly ONB and the provincial government were able to pivot in the face of the pandemic. As COVID-19 began to wreak havoc, ONB quickly expanded the Business Navigation Team to answer increased inquiries about new COVID guidelines, provincial and federal relief measures, necessary resources, etc. “I think we did a great job communicating with clients during that time, and our partners were essential. We launched a series of business webinars with the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, New Brunswick Business Council, Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, Atlantic Chamber, and Atlantic Business Council. It was all hands-on deck.”
She notes that spirit is part of our value proposition; in New Brunswick, we pull together to help companies succeed. The pandemic placed a large spotlight on the province’s agility and collaborative approach.
The Future of New Brunswick
Increased collaboration and synergies and the return of business confidence in the economy are what excites Sadie Perron the most as she ponders the future of the province.
“The innovation I’m seeing through client meetings is incredible,” she notes. “Our clients are working with state-of-the-art technologies and doing truly innovative things.” She points to Waska as a standout example. The Clair-based manufacturer will be the only cedar sawmill in the world with a fully automated process thanks to its commitment to adopting new technologies.
Perron notes that applying innovative technology to traditional economic sectors is key to our future growth. “Agritech is one of our emerging sectors for a reason. Taking a resource sector that’s been a strength of ours forever and layering innovative new technologies over top of it is exciting. That blend of the traditional and the new is where many great opportunities lie for us.”
The future of the work model is something Perron is intrigued by as well. She notes the TD Insurance example in Dieppe and says the remote work model may be here to stay for many companies, even if some inevitably gravitate back to the office. TDI, however, has seen success with work-from-home, and there are more opportunities with that company for talent across New Brunswick. “You can live in Shippagan, get trained for a few weeks in Dieppe, and head back home to work from there,” notes Perron. “This remote-hybrid setup points to the future of the work model in New Brunswick and elsewhere. TDI offers not a one-shot example of this, but a proof of concept.”
Perron says expect ONB to continue a focus on these types of positive stories, as they will help further contribute to that rise in business confidence as we all, finally, leave the pandemic in our rearview.