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What New Brunswick Companies Should Know About New England’s Building Sector

Opportunities NB’s (ONB) Export Development Team works to facilitate New Brunswick companies’ growth and market diversification efforts, both within Canada and internationally. ONB offers a variety of services to New Brunswick exporters of any size, including facilitation of export mentoring relationships and identification of market leads through trade missions and events.

One such event is Greenbuild, the world’s premier sustainable building and design conference. Eleven exporting New Brunswick companies recently accompanied ONB, ACOA, and Global Affairs Canada to this year’s conference in Boston. As part of the agenda, these companies were connected with representatives of Nixon Peabody LLP for a presentation on doing business in the U.S.

Nixon Peabody LLP is a Global 100 law firm with more than 600 attorneys working across multiple continents. Christopher Keefe, a Partner at the firm focusing on M&A and corporate counseling, presented at Greenbuild; we spoke to him for a recap.

ONB: How did you come to connect with ONB?

New England's Building Sector New Brunswick companiesKeefe: A professional connection introduced me to your team, actually. I’m not Canadian but I consider myself ‘Canadian by marriage’; my wife is from Fredericton. So I know people in your province and I’m a huge supporter of New Brunswick. As I said to the companies at Greenbuild, I am happy to serve as a resource for anyone at ONB, or any New Brunswick company, on how to effectively do business in the U.S.

This is a new relationship for us but I must say I was really impressed with what I saw at Greenbuild. New Brunswick has a history of innovation going back to the 1980s with the telecom industry and networking, and now I see the same thing happening with respect to sustainability. It’s great to see — and ONB facilitated a terrific program.

What do Canadian firms need to know about the building market in the Boston region right now?

What companies should know is that Boston experienced a shallower dip after the 2008 recession versus other parts of the country, and came out of the recession a little quicker as well. There’s been a tremendous amount of building and redevelopment going on in Boston, and throughout New England, over the last few years, and there are no signs of that trend slowing.

This is relevant for the Atlantic Provinces because, historically, so much trade has gone from north to south. A robust New England economy is good for business in Atlantic Canada, and vice versa. That was the big talking point I wanted to get across to the New Brunswick companies at Greenbuild.

What else was on the agenda?

I spoke about general macroeconomic conditions. We know there’s a great deal of uncertainty with regards to U.S. tax and trade policies at the moment. There is undoubtedly a lot of confusion on this in Washington and it must be difficult, at times, for our friends outside the U.S. to make sense of things. We acknowledge that everyone needs to be cognizant of that, but in New England we see things proceeding apace without much hesitation. People continue to sign deals, make investments, and expand their operations.

Our primary message to New Brunswick firms at Greenbuild, and to those reading this piece, is be aware of the current uncertainty but don’t be deterred by it, because there is still plenty of opportunity in this region. You can still enter our market and expand your offerings here.

It’s my view that free trade will continue to win out, and that anything that may happen with regards to NAFTA is going to be a multi-year process. In that time there could be changes in Washington that potentially eliminate some of the headwinds to Canadian businesses. If you’re considering the New England market in the long term, don’t be too worried about what the short term issues may be.

In addition, my colleague and our Boston office managing partner, Ruth Silman, spoke more specifically about the green building environment. Companies should be aware that is there is a continued emphasis on going green in the building sector. You will find fewer and fewer buildings being constructed or refurbished that don’t have LEED certification in mind. People are trying to be greener and more sustainable in all facets of their commercial and residential lives, that is the trend and it won’t be reversing any time soon. The market is continuing to go that way, even if some political policies aren’t supporting it.

In our view, the market will end up dictating what policy is, not vice versa. And the market continues to move in the greener and more sustainable direction.

ONB is still recruiting for our next building sector event, the International Builders Show in Orlando from January 9 to 11. Connect with Steve Kelly, Export Development Executive, at steve.kelly@onbcanada.ca.

Nixon Peabody’s international footprint encompasses major business centers throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and London. Through effective use of Nixon Peabody’s foreign offices, networks, alliances, and other relationships, the firm has successfully engaged in a wide array of multi-jurisdictional transactions and projects for clients around the world. Learn more at NixonPeabody.com.