Laurel Broten knows the challenges that businesses, large or small, face in locally and globally.
As president and CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc., she has used her time in the past few years not to tell business owners what they need, but rather listen to what they want, which she hopes eventually fills their needs.
“We listened to you at the time and I got a lot of good advice,” she said during a luncheon hosted this week by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce. “One the things I heard is we needed to make sure that our name was Nova Scotia Business Inc. and not Halifax business. It has been really critical for me to spend time across the province and respond to the needs of businesses.”
Significant changes have occurred since her time at the helm. A focus has been made on ensuring that regional business advisers are the entry point for all questions and concerns. NSBI currently has regional advisers in place across the province, including the northern zone based out of Pictou County and administered by Lynn Coffin.
“Lynn is the entry point of any of the services we offer,” said Broten. “Everything we do comes through our regional business adviser. Whether it is investment attraction or trade development, they will connect you with who you need to know at NSBI and any of the services we have.”
She said the northern zone is also working in partnering with municipalities and regional enterprise networks to create an inventory of public, private and industrial land and buildings for business attraction.
“It is very challenging for businesses to make a decision about expansion without property options or full understanding of the attributes and assets,” Broten said. “We are working on having a map in GIS format that will be accessible this spring and be another way we will be able to work with communities across the province.”
In addition, NSBI has launched a number of initiatives that include giving businesses access to expertise and technical solutions from post-secondary institutions as well as working with a Department of Labour and Advanced Education program that provides incentives for companies to hire recent masters or PhD students for jobs that are focused on research and innovation, she said.
“At NSBI our focus is on helping companies access new markets and leverage opportunities to participate in global value chains,” she said. “We are a small place here but we have a lot to offer and we need to connect ourselves to the rest of the world. In a nutshell, we sell the world on bringing business in to Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia businesses to the world.”
Some of the biggest challenges for NSBI are getting business owners to step outside their comfort zone and see the value in their product in the exporting world.
“Our NSBI team is here in this community and Lynn is your partner every step along the journey.”
Broten said people often ask is it possible to export their product or service? How would they do that? How would their company grow? What other resources can they get?
“We have something and a whole bunch of tools in our tool kit that can help you every step of the way. From the day you’re beginning to think about it to the day you are a very experienced exporter and you want to go to the other side of the world on trade mission. Everything in between, we can help you.”
She said NSBI deals with business owners who have a product and it helps business owners refine that product so it is export ready.
The word export itself can be intimidating to some business owners because they think large overseas markets when, in fact, exporting can mean within North America, Canada or the Maritime provinces.
“Those new dollars come into our economy and all these programs and our services would be available for you,” she said.
Broten said NSBI’s regional team will continue listening to businesses it currently works with, but it will also keep in close contact with communities through its outreach programs or by hosting one of its many “Think Export” sessions that take place across the province.
“A large challenge is that people think it is too hard, too risky (to export). We say work with us, we can be part of your team to find the right path and defray some of that risk. It is too risky to do nothing. It is too risky to think that market you sold to is always going to be there. It is too risky to think that you don’t need to improve your productivity, innovate and look at your competitiveness.”