St. John’s city coun­cil: take a les­son from Vir­ginia

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - LETTERS -

I would hope that the re­cent an­nounce­ment by Lowes to close six Rona stores, a re­gional sup­port cen­ter, and a truss plant, all in an around St. John’s will serve as a wake-up call to the mayor and city coun­cil of St. John’s. If it is the goal of this body to serve the res­i­dents of the city, then it is im­per­a­tive for them, to pro-ac­tively fos­ter a pro-busi­ness, pro-growth en­vi­ron­ment, and it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the cit­i­zens of St. John’s to de­mand this of their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

In the in­ter­est of full dis­clo­sure, I am a U.S. ci­ti­zen, and res­i­dent of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., (I will take the op­por­tu­nity here to apol­o­gize for our pres­i­dent), and as a re­sult some may ques­tion my in­ter­ests.

In fact, I have strong ties to the prov­ince of New­found­land and Labrador, and in par­tic­u­lar to the City of St. John’s, which has been home to my fam­ily since the mid 1800’s, the birth­place of my Mother in 1918, and the mar­riage of my par­ents in 1945.

As a re­sult, from my of­fice in D.C., I mon­i­tor the news out of St. John’s on a daily ba­sis.

In my opin­ion, the fu­ture the city and of the prov­ince has never looked brighter. Pe­tro­leum is still one of the most valu­able com­modi­ties traded through­out the world, and given the find­ing from re­cent oil and gas as­sess­ments, the prov­ince is one of the most promis­ing oil and gas re­gions, pro­vid­ing solid mo­ti­va­tion for in­ter­na­tional en­ergy com­pany to con­sider in­vest­ments in the prov­ince.

Ad­di­tion­ally, although I rec­og­nize this to be a con­tentious is­sue, the in­vest­ment by the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion in re­li­able en­ergy for the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, rep­re­sents an in­valu­able in­vest­ment in the fu­ture of the prov­ince.

As a busi­ness per­son, who has been ac­tive in the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. re­gion for the past 30 years, I am af­forded a unique per­spec­tive given the re­gional com­po­si­tion of our met­ro­pol­i­tan area, which is com­prised of two states, Vir­ginia and Mary­land, as well as the District of Columbia, each with sep­a­rate and dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties and char­ac­ter traits.

Over the past 30 years we have watched as the three ju­ris­dic­tions have vied to at­tract busi­ness to the re­gion, along with the in­cred­i­bly valu­able tax base, which af­ford us the fi­nan­cial re­sources nec­es­sary to in­vest in schools, recre­ational fa­cil­ity and most im­por­tantly, in­fra­struc­ture.

To con­trast the Lowes an­nounce­ment, ma­jor met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas through­out the United States, have been com­pet­ing to at­tract a pro­posed new head­quar­ters for the on­line re­tail and tech com­pany Ama­zon. In­ter­est­ingly, the D.C. re­gion has three sep­a­rate com­peti­tors: D.C., Mary­land and Vir­ginia, and while each re­mains a vi­able op­tion, as the fi­nal an­nounce­ment nears, it is, to no-one’s sur­prise, that North­ern Vir­ginia has been iden­ti­fied as the log­i­cal choice in our re­gion.

Vir­ginia has his­tor­i­cally dif­fer­en­ti­ated it­self by fos­ter­ing a pro-busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, and in the process, at­tract­ing busi­nesses and their taxes, al­low­ing for in­vest­ment in schools, in­fra­struc­ture and pro­vid­ing well­pay­ing jobs which has re­sulted in the re­gion be­com­ing one of the most at­trac­tive for mil­len­nial in-mi­gra­tion.

Given so­cio-eco­nomic trends, in­clud­ing an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and out-mi­gra­tion of young peo­ple, St. John’s city coun­cil, would do well to learn from the North­ern Vir­ginia Coun­ties of Fair­fax, Loudoun, Ar­ling­ton, and Alexan­dria, in cre­at­ing a cli­mate of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the busi­ness and de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity, to fos­ter an en­vi­ron­ment for the ben­e­fit of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

The St. John’s city coun­cil should be fo­cused on build­ing a re­gion where the lo­cal econ­omy sup­ports the ex­is­tence of the RONA stores, re­gional sup­port cen­ter and truss plant.

I find it in­cred­i­bly dis­heart­en­ing, to see the num­ber of young peo­ple, specif­i­cally in our large ex­tended fam­ily, who have left New­found­land for em­ploy­ment in other Cana­dian provinces. For this trend to be re­versed, which it must, be­gins at a grass roots level, with the mayor and city coun­cil for St. John’s cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that fos­ters in­vest­ment in the com­mu­nity.

If the cur­rent coun­cil is un­able to fig­ure out how to cre­ate such an en­vi­ron­ment, then I would sug­gest the cit­i­zens of St. John’s iden­tify can­di­dates who can, as the fu­ture of the prov­ince de­pends on it.

Michael Mccarthy Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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