Saturday, April 28, 2012

Moncton On Top

Responding to comments on the Globe and Mail article,  Moncton on top after surviving recession, government austerity. Also posted to Moncton Free Press.

Bilingualism is an asset. Yes, it means you have to be more educated to get a job; speaking one language isn't enough. But having a more educated workforce is an asset.

But bilingualism is only one aspect of Moncton's revival. When I moved to the city in 2001 many of the services it now supports were underdeveloped. It had a tiny NB-standard airport. The retail sector was underdeveloped. It was difficult to access medical services.

The new highways to the east and west had not yet had an impact and the Confederation bridge had only been open a few years. In the early 2000s Moncton combined its infrastructure with a new airport and aggressive positioning as a regional service centre.

The health services sector has boomed, with a proliferation of clinics and pharmacies opening. Major national retailers (finally) moved in, providing competition for the NB-specific retailers that had prevailed until then (I remember when Home Depot opened that Kent (Lumber) finally extended its hours).

The redevelopment is not yet complete. Moncton has invested a lot to become an entertainment hub - with the new Casino, stadium, and concert facilities at Magnetic Hill - but needs to continue to support the transition of downtown to a business and entertainment hub. It's starting; we're finally seeing apartment buildings go up, but more needs to be done.

All of this results from people taking calculated risks and making an investment. The city benefits from demographic shifts as rural NBers move in, but it is mostly based on a willingness to build toward a prosperous future. There are always sceptics who will say, for example, that a football stadium is not feasible, or that a such-and-such a concert will not be a success, but we work toward these things and make them happen.

It also results from people who are involved in the community and want to make a difference. I've made a habit of telling people in the city, "everyone here is in the tourism business." And more: it's the people who lobby and build biking trails and parks, the people working for their school system, the people raising money for health services, the people who helped develop the municipal plan, the people who understand that the city belongs to all of us. That's a spirit that is new in New Brunswick. We don't work for some company. We work for each other.

When I travel and show pictures of where I live their first reaction is how beautiful it is. They've never have heard of Moncton, but I tell them about the well-educated people who live there, the work ethic and desire to succeed, the sense of community and concern for everyone's well-being, and they begin to understand why I would work and live here rather than in Toronto or New York.

I've seen the Stones and U2 here, I've spent a month camping by the seaside, I've walked through dense forests and tasted maple syrup right from the tree, I've seen my first pro basketball game and revisited my love for the CFL, and I've made a home here.

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