THE GAME CHANGERS
By Jennifer Wood
How Excellence NB is Inspiring New Brunswickers to Power Up its Economy
During these unprecedented times where our global economy has experienced a sharp and immediate decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to support local businesses. Many New Brunswick companies have quickly adapted to this new environment either by providing contactless delivery of goods, or by offering virtual services which you can conveniently enjoy in the comfort and safety of your home. Businesses are doing whatever it takes to weather this storm, to ensure that they will still be here to serve us on the other side of this. They have made it easier than ever before, for us to shop local. Exclusively for [EDIT], our Senior Editor, Jennifer Wood explores the far reaching work of Excellence NB at the time we need them most.
New Brunswick is home to a multitude of quality products and services recognized and in demand the world over. And yet many citizens of the province are unaware of these products or have yet to try them. With online retail providing consumers convenient access to products from around the globe, it is that much easier to overlook what is made locally. But what would happen if citizens, businesses and governments chose local a mere five percent of the time? They would have an enormous impact on the growth of their economy by making this slight shift in their expenditures — not by spending more.
In steps Excellence NB.
Launched nearly two years ago by co-founders and New Brunswick business pioneers and philanthropists Jon and Leslie Manship, Excellence NB is privately funded and operated. Its mandate is to encourage New Brunswick citizens, companies and governments to support local New Brunswick companies when it makes sense for them.
“Leslie and I were surprised to learn that research didn't exist on spending in the province and the impact small changes could have on our economy. We asked Pierre-Marcel Desjardins, economist at Université de Moncton, to conduct an extensive study for us,” says Jon. Early in his career, he had used exclusively New Brunswick talent and resources to build a video-lottery gaming company, Spielo, which he sold 20 years later to a publicly traded U.S. firm.
The research was extensive in scope, but the findings are simple — more important, they are attainable: Shifting five percent of spending to New Brunswick–made goods and services is estimated to generate over 5,000 new jobs, $2 billion in sales and $100 million in new revenue over a five-year period.
Excellence NB has established and nurtured relationships with successful businesses, big and small, throughout the province — businesses that value and practise supporting local whenever possible.
“The real power in this initiative is for New Brunswickers to understand where their money goes,” adds Jon, “but educating people about our province’s goods and services, where to find them, and the importance of choosing them over other brands is complex.”
“We recognize that many don't understand how many areas they touch through their spending habits,” says Mike Whittaker, co-owner of Bonté Foods. Located in Dieppe, Bonté is the largest federally inspected meat-processing facility in Atlantic Canada. In 2005 the company purchased what is now considered their signature brand, Chris Brothers, and they continue to produce their iconic pepperoni, among other products.
“We also appreciate the importance of sourcing local firms to help our business: we use local printers, truckers and bakeries to fulfill our needs,” he adds. “In turn, our success allows us to support community programs like food banks and United Way. These are just some of the spinoffs of a local business doing well.
“As a company we measure our brand awareness — it is a key metric for us. It makes sense that the awareness and appetite for New Brunswick products and services be measured, and that is why we are inspired by Excellence NB. If you go to the grocery store and five percent of your expenditure goes towards purchasing a local product, you can be confident that you’re supporting a local company, a family or the families that work there, and the community initiatives they support.”
“My father started our company from a remote, northern New Brunswick community, so I appreciate the importance and practice of buying local,” says Serge Landry, co-owner of A.L.P.A. Equipment, a forestry and construction company employing 130 people. “We understand the challenges of being a small province with a limited purchasing pool to draw from, but we work around that to add value and service for people who appreciate buying from us. Supporting our company means supporting our families, the community in which we live and the province that surrounds us.”
While citizens and businesses supporting the local economy seems a relatively simple concept, government support for local companies can represent more challenges. This is another key area that Excellence NB is working tirelessly to improve.
“Our governments and their institutions have substantial procurement requirements in order to provide our citizens with infrastructure, services and programs,” says Carol Holmes, executive director with Excellence NB. “They live with the realities around treaties, policies and law, which dictate how they purchase goods and services. We are working to identify opportunities within these requirements that facilitate sourcing from local companies. It is a long-term goal of Excellence NB that we are committed to.”
“We learned about Excellence NB through their social media campaigns, and we knew right away that we had to get involved,” says Sébastien Roy, co-owner of Fils du Roy, the first-ever Acadian distillery. Operating since 2012, the distillery also produces beer and honey, they roast coffee, and they have just built their first malt house. “I was especially inspired by the ways in which Excellence NB regards individuals and businesses as viable sources to stimulate and grow our economy rather than relying on our government agencies, which are often overwhelmed with other initiatives.”
In just under two years, Excellence NB has gained significant traction, with over 30 percent of New Brunswickers recognizing their logo. Through their public and private collaboration, the organization is tapping into the power of the province’s public-education institutions, leveraging the creativity and talent that exist to produce new outcomes. In addition, their social media campaigns, including emotional marketing videos entitled For The Love of New Brunswick, continue to drive their mandate of thinking about and choosing local a fraction of the time — a slight shift that translates to massive changes for the province. And the sky really is the limit for these passionate game changers.
To date, Excellence NB has partnered with over 300 small, medium and large companies throughout New Brunswick. Membership is free and joining is easy. Visit their website for more details.
As part of their efforts to make local goods and services more recognizable in the marketplace, Excellence NB recently created a retail kit (available on their website) that is teeming with New Brunswick–made purchasing options.
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