- Fredericton excels in research and development initiatives, making it attractive to foreign investment in terms of the innovations it engages in.
- The talent pool in Fredericton is a big attractor for foreign investment due to low turnover and engagement in the knowledge sector.
- Incentives for foreign investment in Fredericton include not only funding, but supports in locating, talent sourcing, and more.
Foreign investment and the growth of diversity will have a strong positive impact on Fredericton in terms of the growth of the economy and enrichment of the community. Cultural collaboration makes for better business, by facilitating knowledge sharing and cooperation. As business moves closer to being held on the global stage, a community’s ability to adapt to diversity will spell its success.
Overall, what foreign direct investment advantages make Canada an attractive destination?
Canada, by its very nature, the way we manage the country, and the governance of the country, is always looked at as a safe jurisdiction for businesses to operate in because there is standardization around our policies. We have a financial framework that is very well protected and well managed. Canada has long been known for the quality of its labour and the quality of its lifestyle. When you look at all of those things combined, companies would look at Canada as a very attractive marketplace. It also gives access to the largest economy in the world with the United States.
Companies in Canada operate in a jurisdiction that is business friendly, has access to labour, and has a significant innovation capability at a national level.
The close proximity that we have, the transparency that we have between our borders—where it is quite easy to move back and forth across the Canadian borders—and the similarity that we have with the United States from a market perspective gives confidence for companies to locate in Canada. Companies in Canada operate in a jurisdiction that is business friendly, has access to labour, and has a significant innovation capability at a national level. There are obviously pockets of geography and regions that have specific interests and capabilities in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) or cybersecurity, but the innovation agenda runs nationally, so companies can take advantage of that.
What do you identify as Fredericton’s top competitive advantages when it comes to attracting investment?
For investors looking to establish operations in Fredericton, the most significant reason that they would make that decision is the access to talent that we have, access to talent that is aligned to the research agenda that we have here in the city. Fredericton represents more than 75% of the research and development (R&D) that happens in the entire province. Companies that are looking to take advantage of that academic infrastructure, the skillsets, and deploy resources in R&D would want to look at Fredericton.
Fredericton represents more than 75% of the research and development that happens in the entire province.
Beyond looking at Fredericton just as a place with access to research talent, which is a significant component, there are many other layers of why a company would want to also look at Fredericton to establish an operation.
The very first one is the quality of labor that you would receive here, and that quality of labor is not just in the skills that they are experienced in and the training they have had. As an example, we have seven educational institutes here in the city, so we have a fairly significant population during the academic years. We have a large international student group in our city. We are also a city that has 27 ethnic groups in our city, so we are a very diverse city.
The quality of the labor that I refer to is the quality of labor on the day-to-day activities that employees do, the commitment that they make to a company, and the quality of work that they do, and those are made quite often in areas as an example of turnover. We have an extremely low turnover. Once people join companies in Fredericton, they have a tendency to stay, so companies that make training investments can see a return over a longer period of time.
What are Fredericton’s strongest industries?
Fredericton is the location east of Montreal having the most per capita workers and businesses in the knowledge sector. The knowledge sector we describe is broader than just information technology. The knowledge sector to us is agtech, edtech, biotech, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology (ICT), cyber, and all of those things.
Fredericton is the location east of Montreal having the most per capita workers and businesses in the knowledge sector.
We treat them almost as individual sectors because we recognize that even though you have a commonality across those, there is uniqueness that needs to be supported to have growth in biotechnology as an example, or to have growth in a social media company or an e-commerce company to really just focus on ICT tools or ICT assets.
Which foreign investments in Fredericton would you highlight and what does it do to Fredericton to have large companies represented there?
When you look at companies like Siemens and why they would be here, Siemens is here because they found three things that they needed to do. It is important to understand that Siemens is a global company but it is also product development company. It has products and services. To develop those products and services, you want to be in a very cost effective jurisdiction to do that. You want to be in a jurisdiction that gives you all the attributes that you need to be efficient and effective.
When Siemens was looking at their Smart Grid Innovation, most people would not think of Fredericton to be one of the top locations for Siemens to be developing their smart energy products and services. That would seem abstract if you were looking at that from the outside in and trying to wonder why. But it comes down to those three elements that I talked about: first is the access to the labor and the access to the academic infrastructure that supports that.
You want to be in a jurisdiction that gives you all the attributes that you need to be efficient and effective.
The second is they also found an existing infrastructure in place that mirrored the marketplace that they wanted to develop products and services for, which was with our energy utility company called NB Power.
The piece that really made it come together was the depth of the research that the university had, so when those three things came together, it crystallized in the very same way that water freezes. It took one initiative to move that forward and that one initiative was the work that NB Power was doing in its own smart grid activity.
Those three things came together, Siemens landed, they started very modest with 20 to 25 people, then they expanded and took on more product lines and growth requirements, and then they made a more significant expansion because they looked at what we are doing in cybersecurity. When Siemens plays within the critical infrastructure element at a global level, that is where cybersecurity really has a demand and a need. Now, Siemens is expanding their own product lines and their own service lines to take advantage of that same infrastructure here in Fredericton
What funding, tax credits, or other incentives exist for companies seeking to establish themselves in Fredericton?
I break funding support down into two elements: there are the funding programs that the provincial or federal governments bring—they will bring research capabilities and investments like that with companies looking here. The province has its incentives but predominantly, the province enters each deal case by case. There is no defined solution for funding, it is more about what the companies need. Often, the support program is focused on labour offsets because it is one of the highest cost structures companies have in a new jurisdiction.
The Province of New Brunswick, through Opportunities New Brunswick, will bring various levels of funding. In some cases it is funding for labor, in some cases it is funding for your marketing initiatives, and in some cases it is funding for capital investments that you have to make.
Ignite Fredericton has a number of programs that help companies source labour.
The federal government will then quite often align to those and provide augmented funding that supports product development or supports some marketing scheme or something like that, but it will be tied into the Province of New Brunswick’s funding. Then at an Ignite Fredericton or at a municipal level, we look at ways of trying to bring support to those companies not in terms of financial incentives but in program incentives. Ignite Fredericton has a number of programs that help companies source labour. We will do labor talent attraction pools and we will have companies select real estate and in some cases, that is a bespoke arrangement where they have to come in and build something. We will bring the partners necessary to that into the equation for what we describe as an end-to-end solution of what the needs are for a company to locate here in Fredericton.
Finally, for those Canadians who do not appreciate the value of Canada going out there and trying to attract foreign investment, what would you say to them?
I would say to people who do not believe that you should be expanding from a foreign direct investment perspective or through a population growth strategy that you need to look at the reality of how this country has grown but also the value that diversity brings.
The flexibility and cultural differences are in fact translated into better business performance. If you are culturally able to collaborate, you are a better collaborator inside of a company and a better employee because of that knowledge and experience of inclusivity. It is adding to us flexibility but it is also giving us the ability to work in what is quickly becoming the only business stage that there is, which is the global stage.