The new lieutenant; Economic development Greg Byrne, Graham's Business New Brunswick minister, pledges to make N.B. business friendly
By Nathan White
New Brunswick's new economic development lieutenant went to work Wednesday and he's promising to be an aggressive salesman for the province.
"That's certainly one of the things that excites me," said Byrne, who spent Wednesday being briefed on various Business New Brunswick files after being sworn in as BNB minister on Tuesday.
"I want to make sure to present myself at every opportunity as a salesperson for the province. I want to be as visible as I can be and do everything I can to sell the province as a place to do business," said Byrne, who's also the minister responsible for Service New Brunswick and the Immigration and Repatriation Secretariat.
"Our priority is to say 'Here's a province that's open for business.' We're going to work hard to establish a reputation as a business-friendly province both inside and outside."
With the Liberals returning to the legislature, many observers expect a return to the hustling ways of former premier Frank McKenna, with Byrne acting as Premier Shawn Graham's right-hand man in that regard.
"I think he'll do that but he'll do it in his own way," said Robert Gamble, the former president of Service New Brunswick, which Byrne also oversaw as a minister in the McKenna government. "He's certainly got good judgment and a good sense of the province," said Gamble, who's now retired from the civil service. "He's very positive and I was always impressed with his availability and willingness to help get things done. He seemed to have a good sense of priorities."
Charlie Bird, Byrne's former law partner at Whitehead, Bird and Miles, also had good things to say about the new minister.
"I think he's probably a good guy for that job from what I understand the job to be, which is (to be) out hustling work," said Bird. "He's a good people person and a good big picture guy. I think that people that are dealing with him will have a good feeling when they're done with him."
When it comes to hustling business, Byrne said his sales pitch will highlight the province's loyal, bilingual workforce, quality of life and infrastructure, including technological infrastructure such as broadband access.
Byrne is on the right track with that type of strategy, said Kevin Francis, CEO of IT outsourcing company CenterBeam. CenterBeam, based in California's Silicon Valley, has its North American Solutions Center in Saint John, which is expected to employ 300 New Brunswickers by next year.
Francis said the potential is unlimited for the province to lure similar firms, but it needs more presence in IT meccas such as Silicon Valley.
"It's still too much of a well-kept secret," said Francis, who also brought Xerox to Saint John when he was CEO of that company. "Still to this day I will say 'New Brunswick" to people and half the time they think it's in New Jersey."
Ultimately, said Francis, the responsibility for selling the province lies with Graham, not Byrne.
"At the end of the day, my personal feeling is that the premier has to be the chief salesperson for the New Brunswick advantage. I think that was one of the critical differentiation factors when Frank McKenna was premier, he was the 'CEO of New Brunswick.' "
Francis said his first recommendation to Byrne and Graham would be to establish a small office in Silicon Valley.
"That would make a significant difference in terms of getting that message out," said Francis, a Sydney, N.S. native who befriended McKenna when the two attended St. Francis Xavier University.
"I think the government could do more in terms of telling the story," he said. "You have to be able to tell your story on the ground here and go out and build those relationships so when companies are considering relocating, they know and understand the level of capability that exists."
"It's all about target marketing," said Francis. "Who do I need to target? What are my advantages? Get out and start selling."