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Rural, urban co-operation in business would boost economy: Chamber head

NEW GLASGOW – Better collaboration between the rural and urban communities would make the economy stronger, says the chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Bob Mattie, a member of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce, speaks with Michael McMullen, chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon Friday in New Glasgow. Sueann Musick –The News

Michael McMullen was the guest speaker at Pictou County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday where he encouraged rural businesses to feel pride of the success of their urban counterparts rather than bitterness or jealously.

“I do see rural-urban tension across Canada. Don’t worry about the jealousy,” he said. “I call it the Gretzky syndrome. It’s so big that once you are the superstar, everyone starts criticizing you. We are a little more orientated to once you get up there, we need to pull you down a bit.”

McMullen is the current president of MCM Consulting Limited, a Manitoba firm that specializes in all aspects of the retail field. He has many years experience in the retail industry as former executive vice-president of the North West Company’s Northern Canada retail division, president and CEO of Warehouse One: The Jean Store and director of human resources and retail division manager, North America for IKEA. He has been a board member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce since 2010.

McMullen said competition is so fierce in the global market that being a bigger piece of the pie is much beneficial than working against each other.

“We are up against giants. We are spit on the sidewalk in terms of size and full weight. So how are we going to get it done? By being fiefdoms and pull it apart? There needs to be a change in the attitude from both rural and urban communities.”

Pictou County Chamber of Commerce executive director Jack Kyte said rural areas may see major urban centres as Halifax as being a little better at doing things, but once all sides sit down together, it is soon realized that rural areas do things just as well.

“They are just people and we do things just as well or perhaps better than they can,” he said.

McMullen agreed saying that if businesses are going to the table to collaborate they must be prepared to put their best foot forward, have an open mind and be willing to learn and work with others no matter their size.

“In Canada we don’t have that cohesiveness,” he said. “We have high expectations of each other which is good because it keeps us honest, straight and ethical.”

However, he said, the cohesiveness doesn’t mean you stop fighting for your right to be at the table and speak up for your own ideas.

“Sometimes if you are the smaller dog in the fight, you have to go in there with that mentality that ‘I don’t have to prove anything to myself, but I do need to prove something to them.’ That is where as an underdog you need to be prepared.”

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