For the first time in a few years, I ventured out of the Sackville bubble to do some business in Ontario. When I saw all the economic activity in places like Guelph, it really put things into perspective on how New Brunswick is so far behind.
Being behind in development is not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s good to have room for growth. Where it becomes an issue is when being behind creates a vacuum where people need debt to survive financially, and there is no plan.
Here in Sackville, there is no doubt we are in a financial vacuum. The university is faced with lower enrollment; this is a very big deal to our community and downtown businesses. The $40,000 degree, which doesn’t get you job even in Toronto is going to be too heavy a price tag for the upcoming Gen X parents who live on their credit cards. I predict that unless Mount A doesn’t start looking at things such as Agri-Trades that give a young adult a decent paying job out of school, this slide in enrollment is just the beginning.
Just like any business there are peaks and valleys, but the market is so soft in Sackville that if Mount A is on the cusp of a valley there are going to be a lot of business and employment casualties on the horizon.
As a town we can’t look at one institution to solve all of our financial problems. In the business world there is a saying: “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket.” In Sackville, other than a small few, this is our scenario.
What can bring Sackville some economic stimulation? Entrepreneurs. If you need a job, these are the people who create them. Being one myself, the big issue I find here in New Brunswick is that seed capital is harder to find than a job in Sackville. Back in the day, seed capital used to come from a bank. The banker would know you and your parents and take a chance on you on a human level. Now it’s all about your credit score and how you look on a computer. Even the business bank in NB called the CBDC needs most of the taxpayer’s money they loan out covered in collateral, while at the same time charging eight per cent.
If an entrepreneur has a vision for doing something bigger, there are so many government regulations in front of everything that cost so much money that one has no choice but to metaphorically sell their soul for the money before they even open shop.
It’s getting to the point where the question arises in the entrepreneur’s mind: “Where’s my motivation?”
Why start a business that’s going to take a commitment of 12 hours a day, six days a week just to write the biggest cheques to HST, Canada Pension Plan, interest, property tax, and NB Power?
In order to make money in Sackville, we definitely can’t rely on our surrounding market, which is in a vacuum. With all this weight in business start up, you need to go big or face a slow death of a thousand razor blades
If I can play pretend for a bit and had a private equity venture capital firm, I would invest heavily in food production in Tantramar. Southern California is known as Silicon Valley, Niagara Falls is known for tourism and Sackville should be known for world-class food.
There is a reason the Acadians put so much effort into developing our surrounding land for farmland. The market research was done for us centuries ago.
We have one of the biggest food service players (Gordon Food Service) right beside us in Amherst, and Sobey’s corporate head office is in Stellarton, N.S. The market right now is shifting to high quality regional food. Why can’t we tap into it? Because of government licensing costs an arm and a leg to get and maintain – again, go big or don’t bother If someone came in, inserted some serious seed capital and converted that Burnbrae building into a federally licensed food processing facility that complies with the big player’s needs, Sackville is actually in a perfect location to capitalize on feeding the Maritimes and beyond. The result would be importing hundreds of millions into our community that right now is disappearing to everywhere but here – again, a vacuum.
This would also strengthen Mount A’s position because sustainable high quality food production is a natural attractant to the new generation. If there were programs available, a food facility and production around us, Mount A could capitalize on that making our money circle larger and wider. It would be great step on us all working together and being a team. It would also be nice to keep these great students here and give them employment. If there was a dollar put into an account every time I heard an outgoing Mount A student say they love Sackville and want to stay but there is no work here, we would already have the money raised to build the food production facility.
David Hunter is a Sackville resident and local business owner