Hello In­vest Ot­tawa, good­bye OCRI

Ven­er­a­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion gets a new name and a new man­date,

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - VITO PILIECI

Af­ter three decades of ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, the Ot­tawa Cen­tre for Re­gional In­no­va­tion is ex­pand­ing its scope with a new man­date and name.

As of Tues­day morn­ing, the or­ga­ni­za­tion will be known as In­vest Ot­tawa, drop­ping its fa­mil­iar OCRI acro­nym and tak­ing on lobby ef­forts for other ar­eas of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in­clud­ing travel and tourism, film and TV and non-tech­ni­cal small busi­ness cre­ation.

To help with the ex­panded fo­cus, new spots have been cre­ated on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board, for Ot­tawa Tourism and an­other for an ad­vo­cate from the TV and film in­dus­try, and Mayor Jim Wat­son has been added as the board’s co-chair.

“I wanted to put a stronger em­pha­sis on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” Wat­son said. “I knew, like so many other peo­ple, that we’d be­come over re­liant on just the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for our eco­nomic well-be­ing. I’ve al­ways thought that eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment has been given a bit of a back seat over the years, al­most a hands-off ap­proach when it comes to the city’s in­volve­ment. ”

Along with ex­pand­ing its role, Ot­tawa coun­cil­lors have ap­proved a $3.6-mil­lion an­nual bud­get for the agency that is up 53 per cent from last year. Of that, In­vest Ot­tawa will get $2.2 mil­lion, and OCRI’S ex­ist­ing En­trepreneur­ship Cen­tre and other pro­grams will get the re­main­der.

The En­trepreneur­ship Cen­tre and the Ot­tawa Com­mu­nity Loan Fund have been given space within In­vest Ot­tawa’s new of­fices at 80 Aberdeen St. The idea be­hind the move is to cre­ate a one-stop shop for any­one look­ing to talk about busi­ness is­sues.

“If you get off the bus in Ot­tawa and say, ‘I want to start a bar­ber­shop’, we’ll help you out. The peo­ple in the En­trepreneur­ship Cen­tre will have pro­grams on ba­sic busi­ness ac­count­ing, the Ot­tawa Com­mu­nity Loan Fund can help with fund­ing. We can help them start that busi­ness,” said In­vest Ot­tawa’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Bruce Lazenby.

“It’s bring­ing to­gether all of the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment levers into one lo­ca­tion,” Lazenby said.

He also said the re­tool­ing of the or­ga­ni­za­tion shouldn’t make OCRI’S sup­port­ers feel like they have lost a voice in the com­mu­nity. He plans to con­tinue to push for Ot­tawa’s tech­nol­ogy clus­ter and try to drum up new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for those in the sec­tor.

Lazenby is a sea­soned tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive. He spent six years as chief ex­ec­u­tive of Free­bal­ance, an en­ter­prise soft­ware com­pany, rais­ing mil­lions in ven­ture cap­i­tal while ex­pand­ing the com­pany sig­nif­i­cantly. Be­fore join­ing OCRI late in 2011, he was act­ing as the re­gional vi­cepres­i­dent of Cana­dian op­er­a­tions for the Co­rum Group, a merg­ers-and-ac­qui­si­tions con­sul­tancy firm.

“In town we al­ready have a very deep telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor and we are go­ing to con­tinue to (sup­port) that. Re­cently (Re­search In Mo­tion Ltd.) re­vealed that they are go­ing to do vir­tu­ally all of their soft­ware de­vel­op­ment in Ot­tawa. That’s fan­tas­tic for the city, it’s good recog­ni­tion of our en­gi­neer­ing strength,” Lazenby said. “We are go­ing to be in­vest­ing more of our time and en­ergy into places where we can get a big­ger bang. If we’re go­ing to be putting time and en­ergy into a com­pany, we are ex­pect­ing a big­ger re­turn. What we are look­ing at is com­pa­nies that can pro­vide a big­ger re­turn.”

In or­der to bet­ter fo­cus it­self on is­sues per­tain­ing to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, In­vest Ot­tawa will do away with many of the ini­tia­tives it had spear­headed as OCRI. The or­ga­ni­za­tion will no longer sup­port the OCRI School Break­fast Pro­gram, and it’s drop­ping its in­volve­ment with event man­age­ment and plan­ning.

OCRI was orig­i­nally founded in 1983 as the Ot­tawa Car­leton Re­search In­sti­tute, which was a col­lab­o­ra­tive eco­nomic part­ner­ship be­tween 14 part­ners, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil, the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Re­search Coun­cil, Bell North­ern Re­search and the Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Ot­tawa Car­leton. The or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­panded and changed over the years to in­clude ini­tia­tives like public school learn­ing pro­grams. The change to In­vest Ot­tawa marks the be­gin­ning of the next chap­ter of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s story.

The of­fi­cial in­tro­duc­tion of In­vest Ot­tawa is ex­pected to draw a crowd of more than 500 peo­ple to its Aberdeen Street of­fices Tues­day. The event will fea­ture key­note speeches by Wat­son and his In­vest Ot­tawa co-chair Jeff Westeinde, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Quan­tum En­vi­ron­men­tal Group.

PAT MCGRATH, THE OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN

Bruce Lazenby says the re­tool­ing shouldn’t make OCRI’S sup­port­ers feel like they have lost a voice in the com­mu­nity.

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