Student’s View of our Economy

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As a high school student there are plenty of questions running through my mind about Saint John’s economy and how it affects me. I have always had this idea that the economy never really affected me, since I am not an adult.  To be completely honest myself and my other friends in high school never really cared about what was happening to our economy. We have always been told that our economy was bad and that we do not have jobs and because of this we all planned to leave Saint John as soon as we graduate and never come back. It was up until recently that I believed that I would do the same.

Over the past month I have conducted interviews with peers at my cooperative education position at Enterprise Saint John. By doing this I learned more about our economy and found out that it is not as bad and old school as I thought. The City of Saint John is evolving and everyday there are new programs and businesses opening to help our youth.  I’ll give touch on a few examples of how economic development is important to everyone, no matter their age. Economic growth can be measured in many ways such as: use of programs, resources, company growth and education.

Economic development is the process in which we try to generate economic growth. An example of this is the Foreign Trade Zone Point that has opened in our port. Saint John is doing a lot to improve its economic growth and development (which I had no idea were two different things before this project) and our youth has a lot more options than before. The only way that we can properly use these additional resources is to educate ourselves about them and to try and find a way to use them efficiently.

The thing with economic development is that, you will not always generate economic growth through the things that you are doing. For example, you can have natural resources to Saint John but if those resources aren’t being used it doesn’t necessarily create growth. There are many organizations out there that are trying to help with economic development. Enterprise Saint John, for example, is working to remove barriers for businesses and entrepreneurs so they can have a better chance of succeeding in Saint John. The Venture Validation Program helps people figure out if their business idea is good enough to launch a successful business. The Catalyst Innovation Program helps businesses to make the changes they need to keep them competitive.

Enterprise Saint John has focused economic development plans that work to identify and resolve challenges that Saint John has that might affect the way our economy evolves, that may include using education to help people out of poverty.

Economic growth is anything that improves or broadens our economy. Anything that changes or gets bigger is growth. For example, if a new company comes to Saint John and hires 100 people that would be economic growth because there are more people who’ve found employment and are spending money in our community. Economic growth is what Saint John strives for. If we are able to achieve economic growth we will be given more opportunities. If the population increases, we can gain more businesses and taxes can be distributed throughout the population at a lower rate. Economic growth should concern our generation because with growth, we will have more opportunities when we are older. The quality of life will be improved through economic growth and Saint John will become a better place for people to live and businesses to grow.

As individuals there are many ways that we can affect and improve Saint John’s economy. The best way for us to improve the economy is by educating ourselves and by finding our skills so we can incorporate them into our daily life. The issue with people is that they think of problems but ignore practical solutions. If we all find things that frustrate us about Saint John’s economy and try to find viable solutions, we can change these issues and improve the lifestyle of Saint John. We need to educate ourselves about what is happening in Saint John and where our economy is going, that way we can work to improve it and we can find jobs that will be valuable in the future for the new generation.

When I went through ESJ’s Emerging Entrepreneurs, “Pitchfest”, we got a random item we had to create a product, develop a business idea and pitch to judges and our friends. I came in second place in the competition but through that experience I learned I wasn’t really interested in creating my own business around a product, but I did find out I was really good at helping others come up with better pitches for their products. But, I wouldn’t have learned that without the experience.

A question that I always hear people my age ask is: “why should we stay in Saint John after we graduate?” To be completely honest it is all up to the individual. Throughout my time with Enterprise Saint John I was encouraged to go out and experience as many things as possible but with the hope I would also come back and bring new ideas to Saint John. We have all kinds of jobs opening up for anyone who wants them and has the skill sets to do them properly. We have a lot of jobs opening up in the service industry and even more entry level jobs all around the job spectrum including call centres or business service centres as people are calling them, now. We also have some management positions that opened up that are looking for people with specific skill sets. The one thing that I always hear people complain about is the lack of jobs available for our youth, the truth is, there are a ton of jobs available for us we just need to go out of our comfort zone to find them. I was just at a job fair with ESJ, where there were 500 jobs from more than 40 local companies.

I also hear people complaining about the lack of information we are given about Saint John’s economy. Something as little as a search on Google or a flip through a newspaper can help us to gain a better understanding of what’s happening in our region. There are websites dedicated towards keeping us informed of what’s going on such as: enterprisesj.com and edac.ca. you can even find lectures on YouTube. It’s best to keep yourself informed about what’s happening around you that way as you get older you can work hard to improve the economy for yourself and others.

A common misconception about Saint John is that we are only an industrial city. Saint John has evolved into a more modern city with more jobs coming up in service areas as well. Saint John is seeing more technology-based jobs emerging across the region and our job force is opening up. Because of this though, we are starting to see jobs disappear that were once very valuable in previous generations, like ship building. Jobs like that are now being replaced by Information Technology (IT), Insurance and health jobs. We need to try and predict which jobs will stay in Saint John’s new economy.  Right now, Saint John’s economy is fairly flat but every day it’s improving, because we see more newcomers moving here and adding to our community and economy. We need to prepare for this, so we can make the best out of the new opportunities that we will be given.

One of those opportunities is a resource right in our backyard: Port Saint John. The FTZ (Foreign Trade Zone) Point is using the port to help with economic development.  This program can help Saint John become more modern and, in the future, this can help my generation greatly. An FTZ Point is a designated area for importing and exporting goods. The FTZ Point has programs that can help with relief on taxes, tariffs and duties, making it easier for companies to manufacture and sell in and outside of Canada. These programs are accessible for all companies and it can help Saint John’s economy because it will attract more people to our port.  As our port continues to modernize and grow, according to the Port Saint John website, “activity from container growth alone will double direct and indirect jobs across the region from 500 to more than 1,000, not including economic growth spin-offs.”

We will have a lot more people using our resources and putting time and money into our city. If a business starts importing and exporting goods through Saint John, they will need workers to make sure everything goes over smoothly and who do you think those workers will be? Us. With this new program we have the possibility to open up new jobs for the people of Saint John. This new FTZ Point will help to develop and introduce new industries in Saint John. I know what you’re thinking: “What does Enterprise Saint John have to do with this?”.  Enterprise Saint John has been chosen by the government of Canada to network and promote the FTZ Point and to provide information to anyone who wants it. With that being said we are constantly gaining additional information about this program and the best way to learn more is on its website, www.enterprisesj.com, which also has links to the Canada Revenue Agency and Canada Border Services Agency websites.

Everyone that I spoke to said that they believe that our youth should go out and experience life but, Saint John has a lot to offer us, long term. From things like lower living costs to business and career opportunities, Saint John has the perfect soil to grow your life.

Leila Kincade is the Student Researcher at Enterprise Saint John, on work placement from St. Malachy’s Memorial High School until January 2019.  A shortened version of this essay was in the Telegraph Journal.

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