The Area Development Frontline series offers insight into the innovative strategy being taken by businesses that are succeeding, intelligence on locations that are deploying winning policy to attract investment and talent, and reports on the industry trends that are affecting and shaping the global business climate now and into the future.Technology plans that New Brunswick, Canada Premier Shawn Graham outlined in his January 2010 State of the Province address have come to fruition, as the province has met its ambitious goal to connect 100 percent of its residents to high-speed, broadband Internet.
"There is an inherent spirit in New Brunswickers - in communities large and small - to find better ways of doing things," Graham said in his address. "Knowledge and innovation are not limited to our offices, boardrooms, or even our university campuses."
In February the province invested $60 million to connect the remaining 10 percent of residents - or roughly 39,000 households - that still lacked high-speed outlets. Barrett Xplore linked the mostly rural residents to connection speeds of 1.5 megabytes to three megabytes per second.
"Connecting people in rural communities with high-speed access opens up a world of possibilities and allows them to participate fully in the global economy," said Charles Beaudet, Barrett Xplore's Eastern Canada general manager.
Individuals and businesses from Northumberland to Moncton have benefited from the province's efforts. Property Guys' online business sells homes directly to buyers. And Dan and Pierre Martell, owners of Martell Homes, will use the access to allow clients to check on their homes' construction with photo feeds straight from the job site.
Rural residents can also receive work credentials through online education programs and work from home, thus becoming more employable.
"We know New Brunswickers can succeed if they have the tools to participate fully in the global economy," Graham said. "Our investment in this project ensures all rural residents can seize every opportunity available to them to improve their education, maximize their employment options, take their businesses online, and make the most of enhanced government services."
The project even gave local employment numbers a slight boost, as Xplore hired 20 workers in addition to the 220 it employs in Fredericton to complete the work. The project was even completed two months early at the end of May 2010. More than 160 towers and satellites will provide broadband service. Graham celebrated the completion at St. Stephen's rural Loon Bay Lodge.
"It's the perfect example of the benefits we're talking about," Graham said. "The owners depend on quick and easy access to their email to run their business."
The project's success earned Graham the Visionary of the Year Award from the Intelligent Community Forum. The award recognizes an individual or organization that has led the promotion of broadband technology, especially through public-private partnerships.
New Brunswick also placed highly in KPMG's annual Competitive Alternatives report for 2010, which compares the business climates of countries across the globe. Moncton and Fredericton ranked among the top five best locations in North America in which to do business.
Of the Atlantic Canada cities surveyed, Moncton had the biggest business cost savings as compared to the United States, which served as a baseline measure. Moncton's cost of doing business was 8.7 percent lower than the United States, while Fredericton came in with the next biggest savings of 8.2 percent.
"Indeed, Moncton offers both the second lowest business costs and the fifth most affordable housing market among 75 Canadian and US cities studied," said Gregory Simpson, office managing partner of KPMG's Halifax office.
As a whole, New Brunswick's operating costs were up to 14 percent lower, and labor costs up to 22 percent lower, as compared to U.S. costs. The province's cities also had a 14 percent business cost advantage over other Canadian cities for the information communications technology industry, a figure that will help keep the province at the forefront of ICT breakthroughs in years to come.