Hub of the matter
Why it makes sense to set up shop in Moncton
Its position at the geographic centre of the Maritimes makes Moncton a natural commercial and economic hub. But that’s not all it has going for it. Moncton also offers easy access to transportation networks; an educated, experienced, and bilingual workforce; and, a variety of industrial and commercial lands ready for development.
Those selling features have not gone unnoticed. Last year, increased activity within the Moncton Industrial Park and the Caledonia Industrial Estates brought in almost $39 million in new tax base assessment for the city. In fact, reports Pierre Dupuis, general manager of Moncton Industrial Development, for the last five to seven years, interest in the city’s industrial parks has “surpassed our expectations from a tax base point of view and a land sales point of view. Add in the level of new investments within the parks, and you quickly realize that we are not only hitting our targets but also surpassing them.”
Some of that growth has been organic, buoyed by a sturdy economy, says Dupuis: “People who started a small business in their backyard, and then they needed more space and wanted to move to the industrial park.” The rest can be attributed to a growing number of businesses from outside the area wanting to establish or expand their presence in Moncton.
“The proximity and easy access to the Maritime market is crucial,” says Dupuis. “Within a two-and-a-half hour drive you can be in any of the major centres in the Maritimes, and have access to a population of 1.3 million people. Within 24 hours of driving time you can hit Chicago, Illinois to the west or Atlanta, Georgia to the south, demonstrating how easy it is to hit most major markets in eastern Canada and the United States.”
Both of Moncton’s industrial parks have direct rail access, while Trans-Canada Highway interchanges allow smooth connections to the parks with no need to travel city streets. The international airport is nearby, and the major ports of Saint John and Halifax are just a couple of hours’ drive away.
Another attraction is cost. “It’s our topography,” says Dupuis. “I tell people that basically all they have to do is scrape off the top [of the ground] and they can easily build most anywhere.” This often reduces the overall price tag of development in Moncton’s industrial parks.
Buildings and lots do little without people to make them thrive. On that count, too, says Dupuis, Moncton offers an advantage: “We have a bilingual and well-educated population and a good supply of workers … Most of the companies I’ve worked with are able to find the people they need to meet their needs.”
As a non-profit corporation charged with promoting and operating the industrial parks, Moncton Industrial Development is a logical first point of contact for industrial commercial operators.
“Our role could be as easy as offering them a piece of land that’s serviced and ready for building … or helping them to locate in an existing space by connecting them to agents, landlords, or brokers that have space for lease. It could be as simple as making a connection, or of helping them get the things they need to set up their operations.”
The original Moncton Industrial Park (MIP) sold out in 2007 and Caledonia has about 200 acres remaining. MIP West, the 2011 expansion of MIP, has approximately 50 acres ready for development. Dupuis says the challenge is to develop new land carefully, ensuring that diverse inventory is available and competitive.
To that end, Moncton Industrial Development is in the process of opening up a business park with smaller, easy-to-develop lots for businesses that are consumer-directed or business-to-business operations. Construction will start this year.
“As a whole, this region is doing really well,” says Dupuis. “I tend to think the Moncton region continues to drive economic development for the province … at the investment level, we’re definitely having a considerable positive impact on the province’s economy.”
Feedback: dchafe [at] atlanticbusinessmagazine [dot] com
@AtlanticBus; #SupportedContent; #HubOfTheMatter