Talent: An engine of economic development

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Added on 22 September 2009 in Viewpoints

Text signed by Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and published in Web site www.electionsmontreal2009.com


September 22, 2009

Talent: An engine of economic development

As part of the municipal election campaign that has just begun, I would like to ask the candidates for Mayor of Montréal two questions, each of which concerns a priority issue for the Board of Trade. My second question is the following:

“What do you intend to do to contribute to attracting, training, and keeping talent in Montréal?”

In my opinion, this is a key question for Montréal's economic success.

We are all aware that tomorrow's economy will be built, first and foremost, with talent. For a city's prosperity, talent has become the most precious and coveted natural resource. Yet, it is a highly mobile resource, so much so, in fact, that all modern societies have become engaged in a fierce competition to attract, develop, and keep hold of the most talented workers, creators, and decision-makers.

We possess certain advantages that we like to boast about: the dynamism of our creative individuals, the feeling of security we enjoy at any time of day and, more generally, the city's quality of life… These arguments are familiar to us. But there's more!

Talent seeks out places of knowledge, innovation, and creativity. We are already a city of knowledge, whether we consider our high-tech sectors such as our aeronautics, life sciences, and information technology industry clusters, or the more traditional sectors such as fashion and agri-food production. In fact, the migration of our economy towards high value-added segments is at the heart of our strategy for preserving and strengthening our collective quality of life.
In short, though we have made the shift to and chosen the economy of talent, this nevertheless sets the stage for a test of coherence: when it comes to talent, are we still behaving like it is the cornerstone of our prosperity?

For talent is as much a colossal challenge as it is a complex issue. First, it concerns all levels of government, starting with the federal and provincial governments, but also the municipal administration.

I am curious to know, from a local perspective, if the candidates for mayor see a role for themselves in the development of our knowledge-based economy. Do they have ideas to attract even more foreign talent? In their opinion, what can city hall do to strengthen our knowledge-based institutions such as universities and big research laboratories? How can the City arouse young people's taste for learning and entering into the knowledge-based economy?

I believe that a mayor's role is to first successfully manage his city's everyday affairs. But for a city the size of Montréal, the mayor must also demonstrate leadership and influence if he wants to rally the efforts of a multitude of partners—starting with those in other levels of government. It seems to me that the question of talent wonderfully illustrates this reality.