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Ottawa, Atlantic provinces pledge $20M for trade and investment


One of the key areas identified in the Atlantic Growth Strategy is the importance of trade and investment in building a prosperous future for the four provinces in the region.

The Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Strategy (ATIGS), launched on Tuesday, goes beyond a conversation about policy and focuses on establishing the supports that will enable the region to increase the number of small and medium-size enterprises exporting goods or services, the number of export markets and the value of export sales, as well as boost direct foreign investment.
“It’s about trade promotion, it’s about the firm level, it’s about focusing on programs. It really is different than what we’ve done in the past,” says Rhonda MacDougall, senior strategist of regional growth for Nova Scotia Business Inc., the province’s business development agency that will serve as co-chair and jointly run ATIGS along with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).  

“It’s really about making sure that we can come together and capitalize, both as a region and as companies.”

In support of the strategy, the stakeholders have committed a combined $20 million in funding over five years to develop and implement strategic plans aimed at expanding international business activities.

Ottawa has the lion’s share at $14 million, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are in for $2.2 million each, Prince Edward Island will contribute $600,000, and Newfoundland and Labrador, through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, will kick in $1 million.

Companies will be able to avail of intelligence, market analysis, and training and skills development.

By 2025, the goal is to double the number of exporters — there are currently approximately 1,700; increase the value of Atlantic exports by 30 per cent, from $35 billion to $45 billion; increase the number of companies exporting to more than one market by 40 per cent; and generate more foreign investment in Atlantic Canada.

Bill Grandy, ACOA’s director general of international business development, says there has been a steady growth in non-resource based industries in Atlantic Canada, but resources industries, in particular oil and gas, have seen a decline.

That presents a challenge because 85 per cent of exports from the region are from resource-based industries, compared to 47 per cent for the country.

“That’s not a particularly bad thing, but … we want to make sure that we develop the non-resource based industries as well,” says Grandy.

There are four key elements under the ATIGS, the first of which is fostering a culture for exporting in Atlantic Canada, which is currently less than the national average, and the gap is widening.

“We want to make sure we understand that issue and that we do undertake activities and initiatives that really encourage people to consider exporting as a means for growth, make sure we’re using language that responds to companies to encourage them to consider exporting and make sure information is broadly available in the most efficient way possible,” says Grandy.

Secondly is making sure companies are staffed and prepared for exporting.

“We want to make sure we have initiatives that are able to respond to what firms needs are so they can both attract that talent, retain it, plan further activities and be able to execute on them,” explains Grandy.

The strategy also aims to provide small and medium-sized enterprises with the strategic and long-term resources to access and be present in international markets, complete their first sale and diversify their export sales.

“As a potential new exporter, you can determine whether you’re ready, you would develop your plan, you would learn what steps you need to take and then, if appropriate and you have the capacity and you’ve done your planning, we’d work with you take you right to market,” says Grandy.

Finally, it aims to attract more direct foreign investment in the region by ensuring stakeholders are ready to play their part and bring resources to bear.

“Economic development is a team sport, so how do you support investment attraction?” asks MacDougall. “Well, by virtue of making sure we can all have the information and we’re all on the same page when it comes to capitalizing on an opportunity.”

Other partners include Global Affairs Canada and Invest In Canada.

 

kenn.oliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter: kennoliver79

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