Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this, the first ever Maine-Maritimes Business Summit. I am Brian Crowley, the President of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a public policy think tank based here in Halifax, and I am one of the co-organisers, with Neville Gilfoy and Tim Woodcock of this event.
My job right now is to welcome you to what I believe is a very special and unique event. We are not here to meet a trade delegation, and the purpose of this meeting is not to do business, although I am sure that a little business will get done and that is a very good thing!
We are here to do something that to my knowledge has not been done before. We are here to see if the business communities of Maine and the Maritimes can find sufficient common interest and common ground to speak out for the needs of what Tim Woodcock calls Our Shared Region, what I call Atlantica, what others call the International Northeast.
Whatever we call it, those of us who have organised this event believe that we in this region are bound together by natural economic ties, and divided by the border that stretches through the heart of this bi-national region. That border, in the very largest sense, is not merely about the movement of goods and services and people through customs and immigration. It is about infrastructure like roads and rail and airports and pipelines and power grids. It is about institutions like banks and universities and hospitals and businesses finding ways to leverage each others’ strengths. And it is about influencing policy makers in Washington, Ottawa and state and provincial capitals to take all the steps necessary to keep the border as open as it possibly can be and the commerce across it flowing as freely as it can. It is about exploring the potential for cross-border coalitions to strengthen our mutual ability to get our political authorities to make further economic co-operation and convergence easier, not harder.
We live in an era of rapidly accelerating continental economic integration. But that integration doesn’t take place chiefly in national capitals, but rather in the unique circumstances of a series of regions along the border where the vital forces of each nation rush to embrace one another and chafe against the constraints that the border throws in our path. We at AIMS are increasingly convinced that this region, Atlantic Canada, is not a relatively poor region within Canada but is one half of a relatively poor region within North America, and that the border and its peculiar interrelationships with geography and politics in this corner of the continent, goes a long way to explaining that state of affairs. The purpose of this ground-breaking meeting is to see if we can agree on ways in which the bi-national business community can and will influence the evolution of Atlantica to create more opportunity and prosperity for everyone in this room. This is intentionally a meeting just for businesspeople, and hence no politicians have been invited. But if we are successful I hope that the politicians on both sides of the border will soon be hearing more about us. We hope that this is just the first of such meetings, and we are already working on a similar event for New Brunswick.
Let me tell you a bit about how the day will unfold. This lunch is an opportunity for our guests from Maine to meet and mingle with the counterparts from the business community in the Maritimes. We are delighted to welcome to this lunch a number of investors from the Greater Halifax Partnership, a unique public private partnership responsible for economic development in the greater Halifax area. The GHP has kindly sponsored this lunch. When lunch is over, the GHP people, who have joined us just for the meal, will be leaving us.
The rest of the day will be devoted to some practical discussions around strategy for the business community around the border, and we’ll talk a little more about how that will work when we have our first working session after lunch. There will also be brief informal presentations by various people – Tim Woodcock, myself, Dan McKay and Larry Stordy on various aspects of the challenges facing the bi-national business community in Our Shared Region. We hope by the end of the day to have reached consensus one at least one concrete action we could take as an ad hoc group to improve the economic coherence and efficiency of the region and to reduce barriers to commerce and prosperity at the border.
I am going to let you eat your lunch now, and, I hope, do a little business. Then I am going to ask several people to speak to us for no more than 5 minutes or so each. First will be Jim Dowe, the head of the Maine delegation, to tell us why his group thought it was worthwhile to take the trek to Halifax. Second I am going to ask Neville Gilfoy to talk about his vision of why Maritimer businesspeople should be pursuing an agenda of cross-border regional co-operation. And finally, I am going to ask Peter Clarke, of the HIAA to come up and, on this second anniversary of the terrible attacks on the United States, to talk about how Halifax in particular was affected by those events. We wanted Peter to do this for three reasons. First, how Halifax responded to 9/11 is emblematic of the kind of relationship that can and should characterise Canada/US ties. Second, Halifax’s role on that day serves to remind us in the aftermath of our governments’ disagreements over Iraq, that there is a bond of affection, respect and trust which binds us across the border and which goes much much deeper than any momentary political disagreement. And finally, I believe that 9/11 has set in train a series of monumental shifts in both mentality and policy in Washington that, by placing security ahead of all other concerns, represents a significant potential threat to the mutual prosperity we have been pursuing through gradual deepening of the economic ties that bind us through NAFTA and other instruments. 9/11 and its aftermath are perhaps the most obvious genesis of this meeting.
Enjoy your lunch.
We are trying to keep these sessions as informal as possible, so I am not going to launch into major introductions of each of our speakers.
About Jim Dowe I would like to say that he is the CEO of Bangor Savings, the third largest state-based financial institution in Maine, and one of the 10 largest cooperatively or mutually-owned financial institutions in the USA today. Jim is a leading figure in the business and community life of northen Maine, and he is the head of the Maine delegation that we are welcoming to Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Maritimes today. Welcome Jim….
Neville Gilfoy scarcely needs any introduction to a business audience in this region. He is the founder and CEO of Progress Corp a dynamic publishing group with close links to the business and political communities, as well as the Chamber movement, a publishing company itself expanding into Maine. Neville is also on the board of the Greater Halifax Partnership, and is their official representative here as the sponsor of this lunch. Neville…
Peter Clarke is VP at the Halifax International Airport Authority. For those of you who have passed through the airport recently, which includes all of our guests from Maine, you will know that Reg Milley, the CEO of the authority, and his team, including Peter, have worked a remarkable transformation on the face of that facility, to the point where it is scarcely recognisable compared to the dingy cramped terminal that we all loved to hate just a few short years ago. Peter….
Thank you, all of our speakers, and thank you to the GHP investors who joined us here for lunch today. I am now going to invite those of you staying for the working sessions to join me in the meeting room where we will get the deliberative portion of our day underway. Before we leave, howeer, may I ask you to join me in expressing the group’s thanks for the wonderful lunch so graciously provided to us by the GHP, a remarkable organisation which is serving as a model of innovative economic development across the country and internationally.