To see 'Part 1' of Fred's blog, click here.
Now, let’s discuss the Economic Strategy and the Chamber Scorecard.
This economic strategy was about doing things differently. It was about setting some pretty tough goals – goals that would stretch our efforts and goals that would push us harder. Every year, the Chamber reports on how the HRM, the Greater Halifax Partnership, the Federal and Provincial governments and others have done at implementing the strategy. This year, we got mixed results: we got an overall score of Red. We also received an overall score of Yellow on the things we worked on, which is down from a Green light last year.
I think this should be interpreted in two ways. First, we got whacked by measures such as unemployment rates and housing starts – those reflect slower economic growth everywhere. Second, the scorecard reflects persistent challenges in critical areas like attracting immigrants, university enrollment and our growing population.
Indeed, the Conference Board’s City Magnet report gives us more evidence that we have many things on the ‘people side’ that we need to work on. However, the most important measure of the economic strategy is whether or not we have fulfilled the promise made to grow our region.
Just over four years ago, I stood before the Regional Council and talked about my daughter, who was just starting university, and how I wanted the HRM to be the kind of place she could find opportunities. By endorsing the economic strategy, the Council made a promise for the future. A promise to improve the economy of the region, to increase the number and quality of jobs, to build our community, and to make the HRM the kind of place where our children, immigrants and expats could find good jobs and build a life.
Well, four years have passed, and what have we achieved?
Well, our population has increased by more than 15,000. More than 18,000 net new jobs have been created. The average income has jumped by more than $4,000 a year. Young professionals are engaged in their community, thanks to FUSION Halifax. Business confidence is at its highest level in four years. We’ve got more projects on our table than we can count.
Have we reached our target? No. And, we never will, because when we reach our goals in this city, we set new ones.