Letter from Invest Ottawa
I am not sure if I was invited to write this column because someone thinks I might have some rare insights, or because no one else was crazy enough to try to make predictions for 2013. Either way, here I am and, with Invest Ottawa not quite one year old, trying to be clever. Wish me luck.
I think that 2013 is the year innovation and entrepreneurship get rediscovered in Ottawa – not that many of us locals ever thought it really went far away.
But there is a changing mood in the city. There are more positive things happening now than at any time since I moved here in 1989: the Lansdowne Park redevelopment, light rail construction and the city’s first-ever film studio in the works, along with football on its way back and residential intensification that is bringing new life to downtown. I see city hall and the private sector working well together to make Ottawa more business-friendly.
To succeed, Ottawa needs to really stand out as a great place to start and grow innovative businesses in the “new” economy. To do that, we need world-class talent. Talent, however, is mobile, so we need to be really attractive. We already lead on many lists of great places to live and work. In 2013, we will continue to promote Ottawa aggressively, externally and locally, so that we are highly ranked on even more lists.
Why promote it locally? There are about 120,000 postsecondary students in Ottawa, many from other countries. We need to find ways to keep the best and brightest of them here once they graduate.
Entrepreneurship will be the hottest word of 2013 in Ottawa. Our amazing immigrant community will continue to create new businesses and Invest Ottawa will help with workshops in five languages. College and university students will build more companies than ever and continue to grow them after graduation in facilities on campus or at other centres like Exploriem, The Code Factory, Mercury Grove and others. Help is out there; at Invest Ottawa alone, our list of mentors has grown from 20 to 100 and we expect to have 200 in 2013.
I also think that we will see the concept of a global centre of excellence forming around the photonic/telecom/wireless space and a serious and co-operative effort by business and government to let the world know just how strong Ottawa is.
Sir Terry Matthews tells me that the west-end buildings are filling fast and that we may see more new construction soon. Almost all of the multinationals in that part of town tell me they plan to grow in 2013. The startup community is also going strong.
Our talent is already attracting new investment, with more than $114 million poured into Ottawa startups last year. In 2013, that number will go up. As announced in December, with $10 million (and market access to China) available from the Chinese firm ZDG, Invest Ottawa will be a big draw not only for Ottawa companies, but also for companies from across Canada and the U.S. wishing to tap into this massive market. Meanwhile, the Capital Angel Network is refreshed and will be more active in 2013, and don’t forget that Canada’s newest VC, Mistral Venture Partners, will close in 2013 and be located right here in Ottawa.
I could go on, but 2013 will be a great year with a renewed spirit of entrepreneurship and growth – if we all continue to pull together.
Bruce Lazenby is president and CEO of Invest Ottawa.