Irving, McCain, Bragg: Author encourages business schools to look local

Posted on January 26, 2022 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments


Working out of the Université de Moncton, Donald Savoie holds the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and a long list of professional credits. These days, he regularly wonders aloud at how little Atlantic Canadians and even Atlantic Canadian business students often know about the region’s most successful entrepreneurs.

“We have a number of excellent schools of business in Atlantic Canada,” Savoie says, speaking recently with Atlantic Business Magazine. He emphasizes the schools deserve praise for the quality of business education they provide.

However, he has long felt more could be done—in the region’s post-secondary institutions and beyond—to study local case studies alongside international and national successes from Central Canada.

“I know our schools of business do not pay enough attention to the local entrepreneurs,” he said.

It has been a drum beat of his for years now. “What I think we need to do in Atlantic Canada is celebrate the economic success of local entrepreneurs.”

An Officer of the Order of Canada, Savoie is founder of what was the Canadian Institute for Research and Regional Development (founded in 1983; since 2015, it has been renamed for its founder as the Donald J. Savoie Institute). Savoie was awarded the Donner Prize for excellence in public policy writing for his book What is Government Good At? and has multiple titles published on governance and economic development including 2019’s Democracy in Canada: The Disintegration of Our Institutions.

In the last decade, he has also written and published three titles centred on some of the best-known names in business from Atlantic Canada: Harrison McCain: Single-Minded Purpose (2013), Thanks for the Business: K.C. Irving, Arthur Irving and the Story of Irving Oil (2020) and, most recently, The Rural Entrepreneur: John Bragg (2021). In the decision to branch out, he said he felt it had been left to him to write the titles. He wondered why there were not more non-fiction titles from Atlantic Canadian business educators, for example.


Submitted Photo


Over the years, Savoie has developed acquaintances and friendships throughout the region’s established business community. He’s quite open in his latest book, for example, in spelling out and injecting reminders of his friendship with John Bragg. However, he is adamant about their stories deserving to be told and being helpful in potentially inspiring regional entrepreneurs.

“Readers who are familiar with my work on economic development know that my economic heroes are entrepreneurs. It is the entrepreneurs who propel economies forward,” he writes, in his introduction to his book on the Irvings. “My admiration is greatest for the talented entrepreneurs from my region, Atlantic Canada. They have to pull against gravity if they wish to build a business empire that extends to other parts of Canada and the world.”

Savoie says he believes there are qualities shared by some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the region. Tenacity is one. “They don’t know how to give up,” he says. A single-minded purpose is the other, with commitment to the goals they set for themselves.


Donald J. Savoie (Photo by Bob Maillet Photographe)


He says how deeply rooted in the region they are is also too often overlooked. He believes Atlantic Canadians don’t know, for example, of many charitable activities undertaken by successful entrepreneurs and the companies they help create, like the 67 scholarships throughout regional post-secondary institutions financed collectively by John and Judy Bragg, and the John and Judy Bragg Family Foundation.

“Bragg does not like to brag,” Savoie said, saying the same could be said of all the individuals he’s profiled. “They’re not driven by that.”

Of entrepreneurs generally, he says he’s found the tend to be driven by competitive instincts, by a chase, “by the game.” At the same time, with limited, wide-reaching, in-depth examination of the region’s most successful, there’s also a risk of missing new experiences, new trends in successful entrepreneurship for those based in the region.

Asked why the region hasn’t seen more stories—published or not—but more successes like the Irvings and the Braggs, he suggested many cases go unrecognized but, as well, there is new opportunity and potential in the students and would-be entrepreneurs today. He said he sees it in his students and hears it in exchanges during his guest lectures.

“My generation, when we got out of university what we wanted was a job,” he said.

“Today it’s not like that anymore. (…) My plea is for the schools of business to take that and run with it.”

About our Book Report series

In Book Report, Atlantic Business Magazine highlights non-fiction focused on Atlantic Canada and Atlantic Canadians, and from Atlantic Canadian publishers. These short pieces will offer details from upcoming business biographies, Q&As on new releases and in some cases, fresh commentary from non-fiction authors on the subjects of their published works.

For more Web Exclusives, click here.


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