Economy: Cape Breton Partnership hosts annual general meeting and investor summit. Among the list of speakers: John Thompson, CEO of Enterprise Greater Moncton, who will discuss the Hub City’s efforts at luring investment and aiding local startups

HALIFAX – Cape Breton business leaders are looking to Moncton for clues in attracting investment, growing the economy and keeping young people close to home.

On Thursday, the Cape Breton Partnership will host its annual general meeting and investor summit in Ingonish, N.S. Among the list of speakers: John Thompson, the CEO of Enterprise Greater Moncton, who will discuss the Hub City’s efforts at luring investment and aiding local startups.

“Moncton has had great success in a number of areas, particularly on the business retention and attraction side,” said Keith MacDonald, executive director of the Cape Breton Partnership, an economic development organization that promotes the Nova Scotian island as a place to do business.

“We’d like to learn from Moncton’s activities and possibly borrow some of their ideas to build on the strengths here in Cape Breton.”

According to MacDonald, the one-day summit will largely focus on strategies Cape Breton can employ to attract and foster business, as well as combat outmigration.

Cape Breton, like other areas on the East Coast, is looking for ways to boost economic growth and prevent its young people from seeking work elsewhere.

For Thompson, the plan on Thursday is to outline some of Moncton’s recent successes in battling those very issues.

Thompson said he will definitely highlight the city’s achievement in fostering new businesses. More than 400 startups have launched in the Hub City in the past five years – with a 60 per cent success rate.

Many of those fledgling businesses, Thompson said, are aided by Enterprise Greater Moncton, which helps entrepreneurs draft business plans, secure loans and market their companies.

But Thompson insists attending the summit is about more than simply boasting about Moncton’s achievements. He wants to hear Cape Breton’s story as well.

“I’m also interested to hear some of the challenges they face. I think it will be a good exchange of ideas,” he said in an interview.

“We want a collaborative approach. We all have limited resources so you have to be strategic in terms of where you put them.”

Moncton has certainly received its share of praise in recent months.

Back in April, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) singled out Enterprise Greater Moncton’s annual Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge as a “global best practice”.

And a recent report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) singled out the Hub City for its strong economic showing.

“Moncton’s economy appears to be doing well,” stated APEC, noting that employment in the Moncton-Richibucto region was up two per cent in the second quarter of 2010.

APEC, a Halifax-based think-tank, provided a long list of Moncton’s recent achievements.

For example, employment is up following the May opening of Casino New Brunswick at Magnetic Hill. And the city’s tourism sector got a boost from the recent International Amateur Athletic Federation World Junior Championships, which Moncton hosted in July.

And, in June, CGI Group, Inc. (TSX:GIB.A) signed a seven-year, $125-million deal with the Moncton-based Atlantic Lottery Corporation. The deal will see CGI, Canada’s largest IT services firm, manage Atlantic Lottery’s data centre and set up an office in Moncton.

While Moncton’s overall performance is quite good, APEC did note the city lost 600 call centre jobs between 2006 and 2009 (7,800 down to 7,200). Despite that dip, call centre jobs still account for 10 per cent of the region’s employment.

The Cape Breton summit, which will see more than 100 business and government leaders gather at the Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa, will also include a keynote address from Charles Cirtwill. The president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a think-tank, will discuss the importance of education in retaining young people in Atlantic Canada.