Published on page A8, Friday April 3rd, 2009

A vote of confidence in
Saint John

For Saint Johners who care about good governance and sustainable growth, recent council meetings have been a disappointment. But there's a counterbalance to the bad news: the renewed faith the private sector is showing in the local economy.

This week brought good news from Costco, WestJet and TD Bank. These major market players and others are coming to Saint John, attracted by the city's changing profile and rapid economic growth. It's a reminder that even in the dimness of a global recession, New Brunswick's energy hub and communications industries continue to shine.

On Thursday, TD Bank Financial Group held its annual general meeting in the city. The number two bank in the country wants to add 150 jobs to the 270 employees staffing its Saint John client service centre over the next few years. It's also made cash commitments to two causes that raise Saint John's quality of life, sponsoring the Canterbury Tales Literary Festival for the next two years and pledging $500,000 for enhancements to Harbour Passage.

Air carrier WestJet is another satisfied investor. The airline will soon start its third season connecting Saint John with Toronto, six days a week. WestJet hopes to increase its seasonal service to year-round flights as traffic to and from the energy hub picks up. That's an expression of confidence.

So is Costco's decision to open a branch on Retail Drive in spring, 2010. The largest membership warehouse club chain in the world is a big hit with families, but its core business is supplying small businesses. The three factors that have drawn it to Saint John are population size, population demographics and the number of small businesses sprouting up.

A decade ago, it was customary to speak of the "Moncton miracle." Today, Saint John is enjoying similar growth - and indications are, the boom has barely begun.