SAINT JOHN – Moosehead Breweries president Andrew Oland is the new board chair of Enterprise Saint John (ESJ), the region’s economic development agency announced Thursday.
Oland takes over the position as board chair effective immediately. The move comes at the time of other notable changes at ESJ, including the addition of new CEO Ron Gaudet as well as four recently appointed board members, Louis Labelle, Cathy Simpson, Andy McPherson and Sue Harley.
Oland, who was already on the board, said he accepted the offer to become board chair as a way to give back to a city he’s passionate about.
“I’m honoured to be asked to be the new chair of Enterprise Saint John. I’m very passionate about Saint John as both a resident and a business owner in greater Saint John,” Oland told Huddle. “I’m excited about the future of Saint John.”
Oland says ESJ’s plays a role in stimulating economic growth in the city on several fronts.
“We’re really looking at five areas: Telling the greater Saint John story; helping existing businesses to grow; attracting new businesses to the city, retaining and attracting people and workers, and developing a culture of entrepreneurship,” said Oland.
“ESJ has limited resources, so we can’t do all things for all people, but within that broad list of activities, we’ll fine tune from there, develop a plan and go forward.”
He says his experience of running Moosehead will help the organization stay realistic with its goals.
“In my experience, it’s all about people working together to solve problems and to create opportunities. I think that when you’re thinking of developing a plan for a community, just as important as what you want to do is what you’re not going to do,” said Oland. “Because you can’t do everything. I’m going to try to make sure that what we set out to achieve is going to be realistic and possible to achieve.”
Saint John has seen of gains over recent years, including the revitalization of the city’s uptown core and the desire for people of all ages to work and live there.
“If you reflected back 10 years ago in terms of greater Saint John, the biggest change, in my opinion, is today there is a vibrancy in the uptown. Young people and not-so-young people want to live and want to work in the uptown and we have a lovely uptown,” said Oland.
“That’s really encouraging to me because if you reflect back to 30 or 40 years ago, it was all about unemployment. Now it’s shifted and now there is a tremendous demand for talent. There’s a demand for workers and I’m excited that particularly young people want to live and work in uptown Saint John.”
But he does acknowledge the city still faces economic challenges, a big one being retaining and attracting skilled workers for the jobs that need to be filled.
“One of the challenges is retaining and attracting people. It’s far more competitive. Last time I checked, there were over 600 unfilled jobs advertised in Saint John, so it’s a talent attraction challenge,” said Oland. “Saint John is a relatively small community, there are all sorts of relatively small communities across North America and each one has to find its place and how it can be distinctive and how it can be successful.”
Yet Oland is confident that with collaboration, Enterprise Saint John can make real progress in tackling these types of challenges.
“I just think Saint John has so much going for it, whether it’s geographic location, quality of life, some very stable, core, long-term businesses which anchor the economy,” he said. “I’m confident when we work together as greater Saint Johners we will move forward.”