A survey of Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce members shows a high level of confidence in the region’s economy, but business is less certain about the provincial outlook.
A total of 145 GMCC members completed the survey in late November and early December, 2016. The questions do not constitute a scientific survey but are a random poll of the Chamber’s 750 members.
When asked to rate the economic conditions in Greater Moncton on a scale of 1-to-10 (10 being Excellent; 1 being Poor), the average response was 7.1.
Asked what impact they think the Downtown Event Centre will have on the community on a scale of 1-to-10 (10 being a Very High Impact and 1 a Very Low Impact), the average response was 7.9.
“This survey shows that the business community in Greater Moncton is positive and confident about the local economy heading into 2017,” GMCC CEO Carol O’Reilly said. “For instance, there’s a very high level of enthusiasm for the impact of the Downtown Centre, which is already leading to additional downtown development, such as the Junction Urban Village and 5-5 Moncton.”
Members were also asked to list the biggest priorities for the three municipal governments in 2017. Leading the way with 53 per cent of responses was ‘Focus on Economic Development’, followed by 18 per cent who listed ‘Lower Property Taxes’.
Respondents were less confident in the province’s economic future. When asked how confident they are that the new provincial Economic Growth Plan will lead to growth, on a scale of 1-to-10 (10 being Very Confident and 1 being Not At All Confident), the average response was 5.3.
When asked what the biggest priority should be for the provincial government in 2017, 38 per cent of respondents chose ‘Focus on Economic Development’, followed by 20 per cent who chose ‘Improve Education’, 18 per cent who chose ‘Health Care Rationalization’, the same number who chose ‘Reduce Public Spending’.
O’Reilly said the survey results show the need for the provincial government to demonstrate this year how the Economic Growth Plan will elevate public and business confidence so Greater Moncton’s economic momentum continues to grow.
Recent investments by the province and federal government in secondary sewage treatment at TransAqua and funding to build a bridge to replace a portion of the Petitcodiac River causeway are good examples of positive actions by government to instill business confidence, O’Reilly noted.
O’Reilly noted that Greater Moncton’s economy is the engine that drives success for all of New Brunswick. What’s good for this region is good for the entire province.
In other results, the survey showed the two per cent increase in HST this year was not seen as a largely negative step for business – on a scale of 1-to-10 (10 meaning Very Negative and 1 being Very Low Impact), the average response was 4.3.
The survey also asked a series of questions related to workforce plans and immigration.
When asked if they planned to increase their workforce over the next six months (10 meaning Definitely Increase and 1 meaning Definitely Decrease), the average response was 6.5, another indication of local business confidence. Respondents said the biggest challenge in filling vacation positions was a Lack of Qualified Candidates (47 per cent).
Perhaps surprisingly, 32 per cent of respondents said they had hired recent immigrants over the past year, a reflection of the growing multicultural nature of the Greater Moncton region. Business leaders said the biggest challenges hiring immigrants include language proficiency and paperwork.
“Some of the challenges cited are more perception than reality,” O’Reilly noted. “For instance, the federal government has greatly streamlined the immigration process so newcomers are ready to enter the workforce much more quickly than five or 10 years ago.”
Similarly, O’Reilly applauded the work of the Greater Moncton Local Immigration Partnership and settlement agencies like MAGMA and CAFi, which have worked above-and-beyond over the past year to integrate and prepare newcomers for life in Greater Moncton.
“Their work has led to recent immigrants rapidly improving their language skills so they are ready to enter the workforce.”
The Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce surveys its members twice a year – in the spring and fall – on local and provincial economic trends and important public policy issues.