Igniting P.E.I.’s economy

Chamber official says embracing entrepreneurship, improving access to capital and retaining immigrants key priorities

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 24, 2014

Alan Duncan

Alan Duncan says it’s time to light a fuse that ignites the province’s economy.

As the project manager with the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce’s Island Advance Task Force, Duncan hit three key priorities when it comes to steering that economy in a prosperous direction.

It means embracing entrepreneurship, improving access to capital and attracting and retaining skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants.

“We are lighting a fuse. We are creating a fire that is going to burn,’’ Duncan told business leaders and politicians on Wednesday at the chamber’s annual general meeting.

That task force came as the result of a business forum in May of 2012 that was held to talk about the challenges and opportunities faced by the province’s economy. The task force was mandated to identify action items, not create an exhaustive list of recommendations.

In his report to the chamber, Ron Keefe, chairman of the task force, said the time to analyze and recommend is over.

“We need actions to further our economy. We need the private sector to step up and implement the action plan. We need individuals to take one of the action items and make it their own so that they can make a difference,’’ Keefe said.

Duncan said it’s also time to stop looking to government to fix the economy in its own, it simply does not have the money.

So, where is the money going to come from?

“There is a lot of money on this Island,’’ Duncan said matter-of-factly. “We need to create the opportunities so that people can invest on this Island and not have to look for investment opportunities, as most of them do, through the stock market.’’

He spoke of establishing mechanisms to bring together entrepreneurs and people with capital, suggesting a capital formation summit for investors and entrepreneurs.

As for attracting and retaining immigrants, Duncan says people will stay if they are passionate about what they’re doing here.

“Build and do things you enjoy. It’s a lot easier to stay here and really appreciate the quality of life we have. I think they want to stay. I think they recognize the quality of life that we offer them here. It’s important that we create that environment where they can be successful here.’’

Duncan also spoke about the challenge of asking those graduates to become entrepreneurs when they’re saddled with massive student debt.

“Banks aren’t going to lend you money if (those graduates) are already $30,000 to $50,000 in debt so how do you create that opportunity so that you can ignite that passion and build they’re own business?’’

He used the Lebanese immigration to P.E.I. in the 1920s as an example of what it can do for an economy.

“They came as families, they came already as connected groups. What we’re seeing with the current immigrants is that they’re coming as individuals. They don’t have the same connection. What we need to do is create a connection that gives them a sense of community.’’

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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