MONCTON – The Town of Belledune leads the province in per capita economic development spending, says an interim report from the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.
The northern New Brunswick community topped the list $173, followed by the village of Richibucto at $139 and Saint John at $130, according to the municipal report card from the Halifax-based economic think tank.
Fredericton, meanwhile, spends $95 per capita and Moncton $50, according to the institute’s report.
Smaller communities such as Fredericton Junction, Meductic, Tracy, Le Goulet and Chipman were all at the low end of the scale spending of only a few dollars per capita, according to the report.
The provincial per capita average was $40, it stated.
Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the institute, said Wednesday it was difficult to gather economic development data from the municipalities.
“The concern we have around the economic development side is how little information is out there,” he said. “It’s probably one of the weakest areas of municipal reporting.”
Voters, Cirtwill said, should care about economic development at the municipal level.
He said he hopes the interim report card will spur on a greater interest in such efforts.
“From the perspective of a municipal taxpayer, (local economic development) is really important to you. For the longest time we’ve had a mismatch in municipal taxes in that business taxes tend to be two to three times the (residential rate) so businesses tend to pick up a lot of the cost of municipal services,” he said.
“That being the case, if you’re a resident in a municipality, what you want is as many businesses as possible doing quite well.”
David Campbell, principal of Moncton-based Jupia Consultants, said he’d like to see municipalities in New Brunswick take a greater interest in economic development.
“They’re getting better. In the 15 years I’ve been involved they’ve gone from complete ambivalence to some interest,” said Campbell, who is also a Telegraph-Journal columnist. “I did a study a few years ago that showed that successful municipalities, particularly in the U.S., spend between five and seven per cent of their municipal budget on economic development.”
New Brunswick’s municipalities should strive for similar levels of economic development spending, he said.
“I still think around five per cent of the operating budget, which is about what they spend on garbage, should be realistic,” he said.
The increased spending could go towards developing business and industrial parks, marketing of the community as well as hiring staff who will help strategic sectors grow.
“There’s a whole wide of range of things they can do. They can do research on (economic) sectors, they can look at local tax policy and try to be more effective around tax policy. They can’t offer specific incentives but they can certainly figure out what’s the best mix of property tax costs.”