Valerie Payn
Valerie Payn, President & CEO

The third, and final, 4Front Atlantic Conference has come and gone.  A staggering amount of effort went into these three annual gatherings, which have featured our most prominent Atlantic leadership.

The Conferences were the brainchild of George Cooper and Kevin Lynch, both great Canadians who want only the best for our beloved Atlantic Region.  They know, and we know, we are on a precarious perch.

Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director of the international consultancy, McKinsey & Co. started off the day by alternatively scaring and thrilling us.  Describing “The Great Rebalancing”, driven world-wide by urbanization, he brought into focus just how small we are in Canada, never mind Atlantic, in the big scheme of things.

For example, from Asia we will see 3 billion new middle class consumers coming into the global market by 2030.   Yes, 3 billion!   The opportunity for our companies boggles the mind.  There was a lot of information shared that day, to which I could not possibly do justice.

However, in my mind, the single most important question posed during the whole day was, “Do we have the ambition to grasp the opportunities?”

What, exactly, is it going to take for us to get it? To really get it…that we cannot continue to do things the same way we always have and expect to prosper and grow.  Heck, to even survive.

It is long past the time for some serious soul searching.  Now is the time for action. We are quickly approaching the red zone on the speedometer as the rest of the world races forward, 1,000 times faster than the industrial revolution that changed the world economy over three centuries ago.

The Halifax Chamber has been ringing the bell of Talent, Going Global, Innovation and Productivity and the Role of Government loud and long over the past several years.  4Front Atlantic has done us a great service by bringing us together – this time as an Atlantic collective – to, yet once again, to try to incite some action on these same themes.  And there is broad agreement that the private sector needs to lead this effort.

Andrew Boswell, Chair of the Halifax Chamber Board of Directors, recently threw out a public challenge for each of us to make one small, but cumulatively effective, change in the way we do business.  Find one that works for you, or maybe two – and let’s make it happen:

1. Re-write one job description for a college or university graduate

2. Contact one of our local universities to see if research is being done to help your business develop a new product or service

3. If you are in a university environment, contact a local business to get a product or service to the commercial market

4. Hire an immigrant and bring new talent to our community

5. Go on a trade mission and get your company on the path to exporting

6. Mentor an entrepreneur

Imagine.  For example, just imagine, if each member of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce alone, made just one change each tomorrow.  That would be 1,700 changes in behavior in one day.  This is the kind of action it is going to take.

Do we have the ambition to grasp the opportunities the world wide economic shift is offering us?  What are you prepared to do for your part?  We will only accomplish it together.

Valerie Payn
President & CEO
Halifax Chamber of Commerce