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Moncton's array of industrial locations, strategic position, and skilled workforce present a compelling option to investors

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With a quick swipe of her index finder, a McKesson Canada employee scans a product label, double-checks it against her master list, and puts the desired order and quantities of items in the "tote" that continues on its way through the company's new distribution centre in Moncton. Akin to a shopping cart, the tote will be filled with everything from prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs to shampoo, toothpaste, and first-aid supplies. The contents will be carefully packaged, then shipped to one of 450 regular customers, usually by 12 p.m. the day after the order was placed.

McKesson Canada's new 176,000-square-foot facility in Moncton is a $25-million state-of-the-art distribution centre that has become the company's base for serving its customers in the Maritimes. Smaller operations in Moncton and Halifax were recently consolidated under one roof, with all 50 employees from the previous Moncton facility retained and 40 new ones hired. Richard Brennan, McKesson Canada's general manager for the Atlantic region, says Moncton was a logical choice. "It's very centralized from a distribution point of view," he says, adding that the city's skilled workforce was also a major factor.

The McKesson Canada story is an apt example for telling Moncton's story. As recently as a few weeks ago, Kevin Silliker, the City of Moncton's director of economic devel-opment, had two more successful meetings with new investors wanting to bring business to or expand in the Moncton area. Silliker speaks regularly with talented individuals who have chosen to move to Moncton, attracted not only by the area's quality of life but also by its diversified economy, which enables steady growth across all sectors year over year. "Our value proposition is clearly our balanced opportunities," he says.

From customer-service centres to manufacturing, regional distribution, retail, and transportation, no single sector represents more than 12% of Moncton's overall economy. The 2011 census data reveals that Moncton is the fifth fastest-growing census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada, and the fastest east of Saskatoon. "Companies notice it when your city grows so fast," says Silliker. "It helps attract even more people and talent."

Moncton's central location makes it the hub of the Maritimes and gives it tremendous market penetration across all of Atlantic Canada and the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. Add to that mix a loyal and bilingual workforce with a low turnover rate and you have more of the reasons behind Moncton's success and steady growth.

When Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc chats about his hometown, he uses such terms as vibrant, prosperous, and resilient. "Moncton is known for having a can-do attitude and punching above our weight class," he says, pointing to the city's reputation for hosting world-class events in sports or entertainment, such as outdoor concerts by The Rolling Stones and U2, the 2010 IAAF World Junior Track Championships, and two CFL games.

Both LeBlanc and Silliker insist the downtown area will play a major role in the city's future growth. In the plans is a multi-use sports centre, which will anchor the downtown's redevelopment. The city is also working to attract new residential developments to its core, another essential factor for attracting more people and businesses. Major infrastructure improvements include the future construction of an extended runway at the Greater Moncton International Airport.

John Thompson, the CEO of Enterprise Greater Moncton, sees Moncton's three industrial parks as an essential piece of the puzzle that complements his agency's efforts. When working to attract new businesses and invesĀ¬tors, he always takes them to see the parks. The expansion of Caledonia Industrial Estate and the new Moncton Industrial Park West provides a host of new opportunities, while Moncton Industrial Park continues to service its existing clientele.

McKesson Canada's new facility will provide more flexibility and efficiency as its customers, primarily pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics, can be reached within a few hours. The distribution centre also has space to expand. Leading a tour of the building, Richard Brennan opens the door to a large empty space that will eventually be used as a repackaging operation.

Today McKesson Canada fills out customers' orders in bulk or large packages, but it will one day be able to fill them out in single-unit-dose format. "That's where the future of our industry is going," says Brennan.

The preceding article was extracted from a special supplement on Moncton and its industrial parks in the June issue of Progress Magazine. Download a copy below.

June, 2012

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