By OSCAR BAKER III
Shahrom Ghanbori immigrated to Fredericton in mid-winter last year. The Iranian man and his family faced the January weather and embraced the challenges of making a new home in a new country.
“I don’t believe anything difficult exists at all in the world,” said the 54-year-old-father of two. “I can overcome anything.”
Ghanbori and his family chose to immigrate to Fredericton because of its size and quality of life. He said Tehran was polluted because of its population of over eight million people and traffic.
The businessman came to New Brunswick through the Provincial Nominee Program, which chooses immigrants who have the skills and work experience to contribute to the economy. It took five years, but he is just happy he got here.
His children, 24 and 27 are attending the University of New Brunswick. One is getting an MBA, the other is working on a Masters in Civil Engineering.
Ghanbori sees possibilities here but he also sees some problems with his adopted home.
“Economy in Atlantic Canada, specifically in New Brunswick is slow,” said Ghanbori. “I personally do not like it. I like things to move fast.”
Ghanbori is the type of person New Brunswick is trying to attract as it faces a demographic time bomb: an aging population and declining birth rate. A population growth strategy released in 2014 focuses on increasing the number of immigrants and entrepreneurs here and attracting back New Brunswickers who’ve moved away.
Ghanbori is hoping there will be enough job creation here to keep his children in the province once they’re ready for the work force.
He said the government needs to create a climate that helps businesses create jobs. “Governments cannot create jobs; they really kill jobs. They can help businesses create the jobs.”
“If they all prosper; immigrants will also prosper,” said Ghanbori.
He said he pitched an idea of a cosmetology company using some of the province’s vast natural plants to two government agencies hoping someone would take it up. But no one did.
Ghanbori said businesses work well in this region when they “aren’t tied to the population.” His company will focus on exporting to South America, Africa and the Middle East. Ghanbori feels more New Brunswick companies should take that approach.
He is still developing his business, Quark Oil and Gas Services. “We provide the industry with manpower, it means we provide the industry with expertise, engineers and operators. We also provide training for the industry.”
He’s grateful for the help he’s been getting since a month after he arrived from Hive, a provincially funded program that helps immigrant entrepreneurs. It is in six cities in the province and has helped establish 15 businesses since its creation in 2014. According to Jante Moser, director of business immigrant mentorship, Hive is helping about 30 immigrants.
Ghanbori said Hive has helped him immensely by providing networking opportunities and the chance to meet with established business owners in the city.
He’s also grateful for the Provincial Nominee program that allowed him access into Canada, along with other potential business owners. But he suggests the program should require people to have a basic knowledge of English before they are allowed to move to Canada.
He feels immigrants trying to set up businesses here would have an easier time once their English is sufficient. Ghanbori said part of the process is selling yourself as an owner and that is impossible to do if one can’t communicate with the general public.
“Some people have been taking courses and still can’t tell the difference between where and what,” said Ghanbori.
He said it would be much easier and cost effective to learn English in their own countries. But he acknowledges that refugees are in a different situation.
“Refugees are a different story, they have been in a very dangerous situation and they’re taken into the country,” said Ghanbori. “You don’t expect them to speak English.”