Statistics from the Retail Council of Canada show the retail sector accounts for 13 per cent of the New Brunswick’s jobs, employing 57,000 people.
At a conference hosted by the International Council of Shopping Centers, Saint John Mayor Don Darling pointed out the McAllister retail district in east Saint John represents $208 million in annual tax assessments, which translates into $5.5 million going back to the city.
“I think that people tend to move to communities they want to live in first, and then they back into a job,” said retail consultant Lacy Beasley, adding the sector is a strong economic catalyst.
“The communities people want to live in are the ones that have a vibrant retail base with restaurants and shops.”
Both the municipal and provincial levels of government have recognized the importance of retail to the province’s economy. Beasley says it’s more important than ever to forge partnerships.
Mayor Darling says initiatives like cutting red tape and improving timelines for approvals are a step toward encouraging more retail business people to consider Saint John.
“We can make sure we’re open, we gather all of the leadership in the municipality that should be in the rooms to make sure we can speed up an approval for a retail development”.
Private-public partnerships in retail are also big in the U.S., something New Brunswick’s finance minister, Cathy Rogers says they aren’t ruling out as an option.
“You know there are many P3 or public private partnerships that exist that we don’t label them as such,” Rogers said. “I believe we can only be really successful when we do partner.”