The CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce has a great idea for making the New Brunswick capital the best city in the province - or maybe Canada - for starting and growing businesses.
As Susan Holt writes today in the NB Business Journal, "We know the tangible factors that make a city a great place to do business. It's about providing things like low taxes, a skilled-labour pool, strong institutions, and affordable space."
A recent KPMG study dubbed Fredericton the third most cost-effective city in which to run a business in the U.S. and Canada. "This is an impressive result," she says. But how do we enhance other values that are harder to create and measure, such as openness and entrepreneurial spirit?
"It's been suggested to me that Fredericton can seem resistant to change and unwilling to be flexible in supporting small business initiatives," Holt writes. "I've also heard perceptions expressed about Fredericton's consumers being conservative and hesitant to try new things."
Holt wants to see change all that. She wants Fredericton to become known as "a highly encouraging and supportive city... where consumers are quick to try new products, services and models - where Buy Local is a song we all sing daily."
She notes that a precedent already exists. Fredericton was apparently the first municipality to deliver free wireless Internet access to its downtown and business districts. "It's that kind of forward-thinking and business-friendly practices we need to celebrate, replicate and expand."
The Chamber of Commerce is now launching a campaign to poll local business people on ways Fredericton can improve. "We want to hear the stories of barriers you've encountered in setting up or expanding your business," says Holt. "The City of Fredericton is on-board and ready to help identify ways to improve services to our capital's entrepreneurs."
Holt believes Fredericton will succeed when the entire community "throws its support behind local businesses and leaders with their voices, votes and dollars."
I think this is exactly the right approach. It takes business, government and the public working together to build an entrepreneurial economy. It can't be imposed top-down, it has to bubble up naturally, in an environment where new ideas and new roles are eagerly embraced by all. And hopefully the schools will get involved as well.
Good luck to Susan and the Chamber. Let's hope this passion spreads across Canada!
And don't forget: on May 1, Fredericton hosts the 2010 New Brunswick Entrepreneurs' Summit. I saw an email this morning that says there are only 18 seats left!
See my previous post on this Summit to read about the exciting events and speakers (yes, including me). Or click here for more information or to register.