Boom won’t last: Emerson – doc.

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

CHAMBER SPEECH I B.C. must invest today’s dividends to ensure future competitiveness, industry minister says

Derrick Penner

British Columbians must invest dividends earned from the current resource boom in key sectors to keep their competitive economic edge and not be lulled into thinking business will stay on its rosy upswing, federal Industry Minister David Emerson told a B.C. Chamber of Commerce audience Friday.

Emerson, speaking at the chamber’s annual general meeting at the Harrison Hot Springs resort, said government and business must work on improving the province’s transportation links, its use of technology and on building what he called competitive “clusters” of business activity around key growth industries to attract increasingly “footloose” human and investment capital.

“We need to get our mind off the fact everything is going well because we’re in a commodity boom, and start thinking in terms of what competitive advantages we can generate … using the wealth that’s being created by the commodity cycle,” Emerson said in a telephone interview after the speech.

The advantages, he added, need “to endure over the business cycle and through the booms and busts.”

Emerson said governments are doing their part with initiatives such as the Pacific gateway strategy, which has brought investment to the Port of Prince Rupert and discussion about improving financing options for the Port of Vancouver.

He added that B.C. gets tremendous benefits from transportation corridors that “just happen to be passing through,” but more could be done to link businesses within B.C. to that infrastructure.

Technology — such as access to broadband Internet and advanced communications — is another area where Emerson would like to see more attention paid.

He added that cities and regions also need to encourage the creation of business clusters where research, suppliers and often competitors are gathered around common activity.

“If you combine synergistic clusters with conectedness of communications and transportation conectedness, and you have three very powerful locational levers,” to attract new investment.

Emerson had no offers of new funding to bring to the Chamber of Commerce meeting. He said his “call to action” was for the chamber members to become more aggressive about defining positions and initiatives they can advocate for government’s next budget cycles.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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