I am back in northern New Brunswick. I am happy to see family, old friends and even tonight to be lacing up my skates for some pick up hockey for the first time. Sadly, even though it was a short fifteen months since I left my little village of Belledune, upon return there seems to be a pall over the region. An unspoken resignation that our home is quickly closing in on the point of no return. Whether this turns out to be a call to action or simply another stage along what has been a steady march to the bottom, is yet to be known.
It’s too late to save what this place was. I really need to stress that last point. The economy that my parents and their parents grew up in, it doesn’t exist anymore. For too long the people at the helm of our community have chosen to ignore this fact, and we are now left facing an uphill battle towards relevancy in the twenty first century. There are things we can do though, all of us, right now, to help change the course we are heading towards.
Small towns are great for a bunch of reasons: safe streets, family, open spaces and simple living. Unfortunately small towns pay a price for all of that Hallmark goodness, limited market access. The local business owner needs the support of the community, whether it be by buying groceries from the Foodland, gas from the Irving or beer from the Superette. It doesn’t stop their either it can also mean pressuring elected officials to find grant money for local businesses to get off the ground or expand. It could even mean promoting or sharing job postings or ads on social media. All of these actions when combined together can help alleviate the burden that a small town entrepreneur faces, allowing them to grow and deliver better service and feed more back into the local community.
The cost of operating in Northern New Brunswick is already relatively affordable; however, those savings that an entrepreneur may initially enjoy are quickly eliminated by the cost of getting their idea or product to market. The sad truth is that most companies that would be able to have a large impact in our economy cannot hope to succeed by just accessing the immediate market alone. That’s why the need for infrastructure is so very important:
- Fibre connectivity for the entire province so that a world wide market place becomes available.
- Startup Incubators like Planet Hatch (Fredericton) Startup Edmonton and Startup Calgary to help fledgling industries get off the ground.
- Child care so that more and more young people don’t have to exchange having a family for their career ambitions or vice versa
- Support for initiatives that strengthen our economy through diversification not just simple make work projects.
Most of those things require work by our elected officials but if we stand up and say that these items are priorities, I feel with 2016 looming, there may be a chance of some movement.
The Belledune School could be utilized to facilitate three of the four goals listed above. So why not create Start Up Chaleur in a facility with already functioning work spaces, great childcare infrastructure, parking and is in the middle of the north shore’s two largest cities?
Speak for Something
Be a voice for positive change. There has never been a shortage of nay-sayers and detractors on the shores of Belledune and Jacquet River. We, myself included, have always been fast to dole out blame and condemnation for anyone who has tried to do something or held elected office. This needs to stop, we can’t hope to move up if all we do is tear each other down. Let’s build something together, let us here on the north shore of New Brunswick finally, start something up.