Reasons To be Hopeful
A message from Andrew Oland Chair, Board of Directors: Economic Development Greater Saint John
COVID – 19 has had an impact on the global economy, including Greater Saint John. One only needs to look at our Uptown district to see firsthand the absence of cruise ships bringing thousands of visitors per trip into our restaurants, shops, and historical sites. And, like other parts of the world, our businesses have had to pivot, to take on new operational approaches with the safety of employees and customers the top priority.
As the City of Saint John negotiates through its sustainability plan, many tough decisions have been and will continue to be made. As Canada’s oldest incorporated City, we have significant and aging infrastructure, this combined with escalating costs to maintain facilities and services have become difficult to manage. As the City tries to stay relevant in terms of community expectations of program delivery and services, it also is trying to achieve financial sustainability. Often these two issues combined cause discomfort and tension in the community.
At the same time Greater Saint John has a rich history of reinventing itself through innovation. It has been a historic producer and distributor of goods and services and it has a strong and thriving entrepreneurial culture. It is home to the headquarters of several international companies that are making exciting investments both at home and throughout the globe. The region has embraced cultural diversity and has a growing number of newcomers and international students from around the world settling in the community. We continue to see success in building vibrant communities, improving education, and focusing on environmental sustainability, all contributing to an increased quality of life in the region.
It is exciting, particularly in these challenging “COVID” times to see cranes and new developments in Uptown Saint John and as one travels throughout the region. There is something refreshing and invigorating to see development which speaks to a desire for people young and old to want to live, work, and play Uptown. Despite all the news lately about the challenges facing Greater Saint John there have been several significant events in recent months that will have long term benefits for this region.
The Fundy Trail Parkway extension opening is a game-changer for our tourism industry. It opens Fundy Coast travel from Saint John to the Moncton area boasting some of Atlantic Canada’s most spectacular views. This year as New Brunswickers, we have the opportunity to be tourists in our own backyard. Spending time exploring the Fundy Trail Parkway and surrounding areas will position us as ambassadors to promote it to the rest of the world in the future. When you support local or plan a staycation, you ensure jobs stay in our economy, supply chains are maintained, and businesses stay viable.
Secondly, the recent purchase of the Central Maine & Quebec Railway line by CP Rail, is a foundational investment in our transportation infrastructure. This will provide Saint John with an improved connection to a rail system that extends from coast to coast and into the US market. Increased competition and a shorter route will reduce shipping costs and improve the competitiveness of New Brunswick products. The Port of Saint John will also receive a new competitive advantage as an access point to the North American market. The ongoing Port Modernization project will allow for larger container ships to come into our port, increasing capacity, and further reducing shipping costs. This positions us well in a very competitive market where we go head to head with all other East Coast ports.
Finally, I wanted to highlight some significant progress being made in the creation of a Greater Saint John Innovation District. The District (made up of multiple regional sites and industry expertise) is a concept of bringing post-secondary education, research, government, and industry together to focus on innovative approaches to grow the regional economy. In January of this year EDGSJ, along with the University of New Brunswick, announced the redevelopment of 40 Charlotte Street which brought the UNBSJ MBA program uptown. In July we will open Block One, an incubation facility for (scalable) startups. Phase one of building the Innovation District is about connecting entrepreneurship to talented students and researchers from our university. We already have several exciting industry and organizational partnerships taking place that we hope will lead to the redevelopment of another key uptown site, near the UNBSJ space.
As we all deal with the day to day implications of COVID-19 we need to recognize Greater Saint John has a bright future. The CP Rail investment and the opening of the Fundy Trail Parkway are foundational events for continued growth. So too is the development of an Innovation District that builds on our traditional industry strengths. New investments, new attractions, and new ideas will position us well for the future.
Chair, Board of Directors: Economic Development Greater Saint John