A small solution that is part of the big solution






The problem with big problems is people tend to look for big solutions.

Sometimes, though, the solution isn't a big solution, but a large accumulation of small solutions.

That's kind of what city economic development director Dave Paul was getting at when he saluted Four-O-One Electric for its acquisition of Internet operations from Xplornet Communications Inc.

Locally-grown companies, said Paul, are the solution to the large-scale departures of multinational corporations' branch plants, the fate of Brockville and municipalities across North America for decades.

My High Speed Networks Inc. is definitely small: seven employees at last count, on its way up to eight. A net gain of two new jobs isn't going to make up for the impending closure of Abbott Laboratories, for instance.

But then, Maple Leaf Environmental started off smaller than it currently is: about to add 121 jobs to its current incarnation as Newterra, thanks to a boost from senior levels of government of two different political stripes.

There is no equivalency yet between the massive job losses of the past two decades and the smaller job gains created by the intervening local adaptations.

It's a reality we don't all like to hear, but also a reflection of the way economies evolve at their own pace, often more slowly than the victims of its most recent perturbations would need.

That's why the locally-grown part of the economy is only one part of the solution to declining employment. Another part is attracting more employers from outside, while yet another is keeping the remaining employers happy.

Still, Dave Paul is onto something. We should never lose sight of the Four-O-Ones, the local companies that take small, patient steps to put a local imprint on the local economy.

We need many more of them.