It says many business people found that their interactions with global business partners almost always necessitated an explanation of where Nova Scotia is and why they were doing business in the province.
Quoting an interviewee, the report says: "I think the overwhelming phrase is 'Where is it?' and 'What are they doing up there other than fishing?' "
The report was commissioned by Communications Nova Scotia for Nova Scotia Business Inc. and obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information legislation.
It says the province often does not pass an initial "on paper" evaluation, especially for site selectors, that includes factors like market size, infrastructure and taxes.
But the report also says business people believe Nova Scotia has great potential, with an almost unwavering belief in the success of the businesses that have found their way to the province.
Laurel Broten, president and CEO of the arms-length Crown corporation Nova Scotia Business Inc., said the report's findings were not surprising.
"Is it tough to understand and accept some of the findings where it shows how much work we have ahead of us to put Nova Scotia on a global map? Of course it is," Broten said in a recent interview. "But it motivates us to drive the successes that we have."
Broten said Nova Scotia has many exportable products that are marketed on a global scale, such as seafood, but international businesses don't always know that the product came from Nova Scotia.
The business development agency is trying to boost awareness of the province by talking to those businesses and site selectors directly, she said.
While Nova Scotia doesn't pass the paper evaluation used by site selectors, Broten said her team tries to highlight the region's other advantages, such as Halifax's international shipping port, the high quality of life and collaboration among key business leaders in the small province.
"We have to work hard to make sure we get on the radar screen of decision makers," said Broten.
"When we get a chance to talk to them about everything that we have and some of the facts and figures about what businesses have set up in Nova Scotia ... it's the type of effort that has secured investments in the past."
She pointed to the Royal Bank of Canada's decision earlier this year to open a financial services centre in Halifax, which will create up to 500 new jobs over 10 years. Nova Scotia Business Inc. is giving RBC up to $22 million in payroll rebates to open the centre.
Broten said the report, which cost $36,800, helped form the agency's business plan for 2015, which includes a focus on exports.
"That's how we will drive our economy," Broten said of exporting. "We're seeking to sell to the world products and services that have a competitive advantage, a uniqueness to them, so that they are globally competitive."
The importance of boosting exports is echoed in a major economic development report accepted by the provincial government last year.
Among other things, the report co-authored by Acadia University president Ray Ivany said the province should double the number of companies who export by 2024.
The report done for Nova Scotia Business Inc. in April 2014 is based on 19 interviews that were conducted by K2 Discovery Inc. with business people in Canada, the United States and Europe, including Canadian and U.S. site selectors.
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