A TEAM B.C. TALK
“Of course we’re going to pull out of this recession – it is only a matter of time.”
I’m sure that everyone has either heard or made that statement and I expect all of us believe it.
After all, this is British Columbia! Our lifestyle has always been the envy of the rest of the nation and this downturn is only a somewhat inexplicable deviation from the way things were intended to be.
We have all the natural gas anyone would want, and even a bit of oil thrown in. We have one of the world’s largest supplies of fresh water. We have coal. We have seemingly limitless amounts of inexpensive hydro electric power. We have vast forests. Incredible fisheries. We have mineral wealth.
And thoughtfully, we located all of this in one of the most beauti ful parts of the world. Finally, we located the whole package on the Pacific Rim – gateway to that part of the world with the greatest future potential for economic development.
SO WHO NEEDS A TEAM B.C.?
If we just wait a while the Japanese will start buying coal again, the U.S. will start building homes again and things will sort themselves out.
Well thank heaven that people are positive in their outlook about the province. Everything noted above is true. If we cannot ‘make it’ in this province, then we have to have gone out of our way to mess things up.
SO WHY A TEAM B.C.?
Our first aim is to get people to act as though they really believed all the above. For if we really believe it, we should be planning now to ensure that we capitalize on what we all hope is the bottom of the recession.
Interest rates are coming down. The stock market has made a recovery, we have every reason to be optimistic.
However, we are acting in an uncertain manner, and without our usual buoyant west coast confidence. We are still concerned by the negative reports in the media. We wonder if:
â€¢ The market rise is just a ‘professional push’ by money managers taking advantage of a short term decline in interest rates. We realize that such major fund managers have to perform as they get close to year end, or they will lose their jobs. And the stockbrokers all realize that money is only made on movement in the market.
â€¢ And are these lower interest rates only a pre-U.S. November election phenomena?
â€¢ Or is there any indication of any true upturn in business prospects? The corporate profit reports are still very weak.
â€¢ And what about that government deficit? It could be as high as two billion dollars in B.C. with growing demands on welfare and declining stumpage revenue. At the federal level the deficit could easily top $26 billion.
And so we are acting with caution. Caution does not lead to rapid recovery.
Therefore, the original reason for TEAM B.C. was to try to balance the flow of negative media stories with reports of the positive. There are plenty of them.
When I first became associated with TEAM B.C., I looked at our own company and realized that while we were going through a temporary, and quite unnecessary downturn, we were actively planning to spend about $10 million in the next twelve months on launching anew project in B.C. – Pay Television.
No sooner had team B.C. got under way, than the electronic Manufacturer’s Association wrote saying that their companies were in fact enjoying some of the best years ever and they had plenty of positive stories to tell.
Just a couple of weeks ago I attended the opening of Microtel Pacific Research, an exciting new development that received rather minimal press.
A few weeks ago B.C. opened a new methanol plant, which instead of receiving praise as a brave effort, received rather surprisingly poor press.
I learned that even the beleaguered oil companies were launching new tankers on the west coast.
In a word, there are all kinds of positive new programs being started in this province. TEAM B.C. started as a group of volunteers from all segments of the economy and various parts of the province who at heart were just optimists wanting to do what they could to restore confidence and hasten recovery.
The program, as one of our members worded it, is one of Information, Inspiration and Instigation.
We have set up a computerized information exchange for collecting good entrepreneurial ideas which we will exchange through a newsletter.
We will be publishing information about what other organizations in the province are doing in terms of education programs, self-help projects or community renewal ideas.
For communities wishing to undertake community renewal projects, we have established a comprehensive out line of the steps that a community needs to go through based on the successful experience in other parts of the country. We are running workshops to train leaders in this process.
As part of our newsletter service we are publicizing positive things going on around the province to assist the media, who can then follow up on their own. We have established a speakers bureau with volunteers to take the message around the province. We even have a TEAM B.C. song and a TV spot that will be launched very shortly.
We are not stopping, however, with these soft approaches. We have the support of the educational community and numerous associations around the province who have volunteered to help those who want to either start new businesses or learn more about making their present businesses successful. The community colleges are cooperating on a regional basis. Associations of chartered accountants, lawyers and others have volunteered their help in conducting seminars and workshops at the local level.
We believe we have to address the problem of smaller communities in particular, where there may be only a single plant and that plant may never re-open or may only re-open to reduced capacity. We are trying to inspire people in these communities working through the local newspapers and chambers of commerce to examine what resources there are in the community and what alternative projects could be started. For example, a community that was a pulp and papers town may find it has potential as a resort area or wine growing area, or some other hitherto unsuspected prospect.
Any alternative is better than seeing the location turn into a ghost town.
Further, we are planning a major Continuing Conference using the electronic media facilities of the knowledge network and the Open Learning Institute to encourage seminars developed by various industries on what they are doing and what they could be doing in the province. These hope to start with the knowledge Network spring schedule. We plan to have all of this to culminate with a Renewal B.C. Conference at the end of the series.
This is an ambitious program for a purely voluntary organi zation. Everything we have has been donated. The airlines are donating services to get our speakers around the province. The business equipment manufacturers are donating copying machines, display writers and even computer time. The univer sities have assisted with personnel experienced in running conferences. The printing of brochures, and even the space we occupy, has all been donated by the private sector.
To ensure that we do not become just another part of the bureaucracy vie have put a sunset law on the whole project of June 30, 1983. We have done this because we see ourselves merely as being a catalyst to get a number of things underway.
BUT IS IT ENOUGH?
Our thesis has been that only in difficult times is change possible. There is no incentive to take major risks when everything is moving ahead. Therefore, only in times of re cession is fundamental change possible.
I predict that we will look back on this period as being one of the greatest opportunities of the last forty years. We will all be kicking ourselves that we did not buy those shares when they were so depressed, or move back into real estate now that the prices have come down, or use this period to re-evaluate what we ourselves are doing with our own careers or what our companies or organizations may be doing.
My concern is that by accepting the original thesis that every thing will turn around by itself, we could come out of this period no better than we entered it.
We will still be a resource-based economy. We will be subject to business cycles originating elsewhere and over which we have very little con trol. We will still be relying on ‘them’ to provide jobs for us through megaprojects, or to lower interest rates, or to start buying our products again.
THERE IS A BETTER APPROACH
Behind the whole team B.C. Philosophy is a message of renewal. Not renewal in the religious sense, although there is nothing wrong with that approach if it fits one’s individual life style. But rather, a program of using this time to re-examine what we personally are doing, our organizations are doing and our communities are doing. Although not articulated in the current team B.C. Literature, at the heart of this program I believe there must be a dedication to developing new job creating opportunities through new secondary or tertiary industry.
I do not mean by this just minor changes in current plants or current industrial approaches. While I would be the last to discourage it, a new pulp mill may simply be building a new obsolete industrial complex.
I believe that we must look at our major natural resource – our own citizens. We have some of the best educated people in the world. We have fine universities. We have an excellent community college system. Regrettably, we export much of this resource as we export a great many of our other raw materials.
I believe that the future of this province, and indeed this country, will be in taking steps to develop new leading edge industries utilizing our educated and innovative population. For example:
â€¢ We are in the best position to provide the growing Japanese computer hardware market with the computer application software that it so desperately needs.
â€¢ We have the facilities to do innovative development in the micro chip industry. This industry can allow us to produce an intelligent anything we want. The downstream job creating opportunities that could arise from re-examining virtually everything we produce to see how it could be made more saleable and more effective by incorporating more intelligence is absolutely unbelievable.
â€¢ We could re-examine some of our traditional industries. We complain our fishing industry is flat on its fins, but with some innovation, Iâ€™m sure we could start fish farming, particularly looking at lobster, oysters or other high priced delicacies now in short supply.
â€¢ We could, as someone proposed the other day, look at our fresh water supply, much of which is dumped unused into the ocean. Instead of an oil pipeline, how about a water pipe line to Southern California?
â€¢ If we are nervous about nuclear energy, how about using our location to become the world’s expert in geothermal power development or energy developed from temperature changes in ocean levels.
â€¢ And let’s look at that coal, and natural gas, to see if whether some methane, propane or hydrogen fuel alternatives could really be developed instead of being just talked about.
I believe that we must get ourselves out of the ‘fish and chips’ mentality – unless of course we are referring to micro chips.
We have the opportunity to do this now.
â€¢ Interest rates are coming down and I believe that venture capital can be encouraged into these industries.
â€¢ Our housing costs are coming down and we could attract more people to the province if we tried.
â€¢ Although the 6% and 5%, and other programs, are having short term negative affects, in the long run I believe it will bring more stability to our labour costs in the province.
â€¢ We have much of the infrastructure in place in this province to take advantage of these new industries.
We should not look just to government for help. Governments at various levels can assist and are assisting with some very innovative programs.
However, the major assistance that government could give would be through putting the incentive back into the private sector by removing some incentive-killing tax measures, such as capital gains taxes on new enterprises or anti-incentive taxes on corporate stock options, and other devices designed to increase participation and innovation in companies.
We must not let this period of opportunity for the province pass. TEAM B.C. can help as a catalyst, but if it is going to work we must all consider ourselves part of the team and be prepared to help ourselves.
If we use this period wisely everyone will benefit.
Let’s keep B.C. moving, but ensure that we are moving ahead, and not just moving around.