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  • Writer's pictureDave Veale

A collaborative agency bringing key players together

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Martin Chiasson outdoor

With a personal philosophy of helping people accomplish more than they ever thought possible in both their personal and business lives, Martin believes that a nurturing environment does not mean lower standards or lower ambitions – it’s about setting up conditions to allow everyone to be their best self. His company, “Loosen Up Consulting”embodies this principle.

Martin believes strongly in volunteerism and is serving as the interim chair of the Board of Directors for Enterprise Saint John (ESJ) – an economic development agency that is focused on generating economic growth for the greater Saint John area, which includes Saint Martins, Rothesay, Grand Bay-Westfield and Quispamsis. Our conversation focused on this, his role as interim chair of SJ.

Q: How did you become the interim chair of ESJ?

A: I’ve been on the board of directors for almost four years now. Larry Hachey’s term as chair was coming to expiry earlier this year so I became interim chair. We were in a transition in various ways, knowing we were going to go after a new CEO and other initiatives. We decided it was best to have an interim chair to go through some of our urgent priorities. I volunteered to take on the role until the end of 2017.

Q: What is it about the organization that attracted you to the board and then to volunteer more time and energy as interim chair?

A: My association with ESJ goes back to the first day I landed in Saint John from Calgary when I worked for Xerox. I was asked to come to Saint John to help launch new Xerox initiatives, including a North American expansion of its contact centres. I was introduced to Steve Carson who was CEO of ESJ at the time.

So, I benefited from ESJ 22 years ago and throughout those years stayed in close contact with the organization because I am very comfortable with what they are doing to help the greater region of Saint John.

Q: Interesting, so your first experience with ESJ was as a client?

A: While I was not directly involved in Xerox selecting Saint John over other potential locations in the province, ESJ sold the benefits of the region and the value proposition of the greater Saint John area. I experienced ESJ from a client standpoint. Now I’m trying to help from the other side, which is really exciting.

Q: Does ESJ focus primarily on attracting new business to the region?

A: We actually spend a lot of our time on our existing organizations to help them find success. What we’ve learned by looking at other cities around the world – and especially throughout North America – is that the best place to focus close to 80 per cent of your energy is with businesses that are already here.

Q: Are there any misconceptions about ESJ that it would be important to correct?

A: I think the misconception that has evolved over time is probably that we’re entirely focused on bringing new jobs to Saint John, but we’re much more than that. We’re very much what we call a collaborative agency. Part of our role is bringing all the key players together.

For example, one of the biggest challenges in the greater Saint John area right now is that organizations have jobs to fill that are remaining unfilled. In a way, it’s a good problem to have. However, if they’re left unfilled too long, you’ve got a company that starts thinking,“Where am I going to go if I can’t get it done in Saint John?”So, the misconception is, I think, that we’re simply about bringing people from away.

Q: ESJ also supports local entrepreneurs with starting a new business.

A: Absolutely. And including some smaller businesses that have had great success – Hemmings House with Greg Hemmings, Revolution Strategy with Terri and Derek Riedle and a number of others – they started by knocking on ESJ’s door and saying,“How can you help me understand how I can kick this business off?” We’re hoping to develop more of these success stories because they’re the ones that wish to remain here and be strong players in the business community.

Q: What are the big challenges for ESJ in the next year?

A: Staying focused on the vital few projects that we think could have the most benefit for economic impact. The board developed a very focused work plan in the fall of 2016 that we’re implementing right now.

I think one of our biggest challenges, because of the limited number of people we have and the limited funding we have, is remaining focused on the work plan and getting that executed for the greater benefit of the area.

Q: Outside of your work with ESJ, where does your attitude around volunteerism come from?

A: If I go back to my youth, in high school, it was that feeling that getting involved in something was better than sitting on the sideline critiquing. I think it started there. I’ve become a bit wiser over the years – now I make sure I volunteer based on two things – do I think I can add value to that organization? And will I enjoy doing it?

Once I got into business, I was very fortunate to work for a corporation that viewed volunteering as a way to develop as a person and get better versus doing it because you’ll get a tick mark and you’ll look good when people ask you what you do.

Q: If an aspiring entrepreneur or an existing business is curious about how ESJ can support them, what would you encourage them to do?

A: Go on our website: Check out the summary of services that we have there regarding what we offer. Then stop by on King Street and meet some of our people. We’re linked to a lot of the federal government subsidized programs and we can help point them in the right direction.

Q: Any messages to share with the community?

A: I’d encourage everyone in our community – whether you are in a small organization or in a big one – to share whatever ideas you have. I know that sounds very broad but the more we reach out to the community to ask for advice, the more insight we get about what people like and what we should do differently.

Q: Anything else?

A: I’d like to make sure to acknowledge Steve Carson for the incredible energy and passion he has demonstrated over 23 years as CEO of the organization that’s given so much to the economic development scene of greater Saint John. We’re also entering a very exciting time for ESJ because we are in the process of hiring a new CEO and a few other new players on the team.

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This article published in the Telegraph-Journal on Saturday, July 29, 2017.

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