Policy & Regulation

Canadian Cities join forces to attract tech investors

Updated:2011/1/20 10:08

World interest in Canada prompts Ottawa, 10 other centres to work together. 

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. announced plans for a $50-million research and development lab in Ottawa last spring,Photograph by: Image courtest of Huawei Technolgoies, Postmedia NewsThe Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation has banded together with economic development groups in 10 other major Canadian cities to lure more international technology investment to Canada.

The group, calling itself the C-11, has launched the web-site ConsiderCanada.com,which aims to promote successful investments in technology throughout Canada's largest cities and to give international businesses reasons to consider Canadian locations for their future investments.

The cities involved are Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, the Waterloo Region, Halifax and Saskatoon.

"Collaboration is the new competitive advantage," said John Jung, chief executive of Canada's Technology Triangle Inc. in Waterloo Region, a C-11 partner.

"Banding together to share knowledge, build consensus on Canada's selling points and getting out a consistent message around the world allows the C-11 to achieve more together than working in isolation."

Until this point, economic development agencies from each of the C-11 municipalities have been lobbying international businesses individually.

Those lobbying efforts often placed agencies in competition with one another for foreign investment. Working together allows the agencies to prevent duplication, pare back on marketing costs, refine their "messaging" and help big international business make quicker decisions about where in Canada to set up shop.

The new lobby group aims to promote how all of the municipalities involved have technology clusters that will make them attractive to various international players.

For example, Ottawa has a strong cluster of networking talent, thanks to companies such as Nortel Networks and JDS Uniphase in the past.

Montreal is particularly strong in software development and computer graphics, Calgary is a leader in nanotechnology, and Waterloo's strength lies in mobile devices thanks to the presence of Research In Motion Ltd.

Mike Darch, executive director of OCRI's global marketing team, said that, even though the cities each offer their own strengths, he still expected them to compete for new business. The benefit to creating the C-11 will be in the newly formed group's unified voice to reach out to potential international investors and convince them to spend their money in Canada.

"We have to make sure that potential trading partners and investment partners aren't turned off by hearing 11 voices and saying, 'I don't want to listen to you all," Darch said. "We want to get a unified message out. To make sure that company looking for a trading relationship or is looking for investment (opportunities) is going to look at Canada. Nobody is going to pick you if they don't know about you."

Darch said business was changing. Cities are increasingly taking a larger role in positioning themselves to attract international investment. He pointed to Monday's announcement by Ciena Canada Inc., which plans to invest $900 million into its Ottawa research and development labs over the next five years.

The Baltimore-based company now performs more than 50 per cent of its research and development in Ottawa. Similarly, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. announced plans for a $50-million research and development lab in Ottawa last spring,

Darch said the C-11 was being formed to lure more companies, and investments, like Ciena and Huawei to Canada.

He said the C-11 initiative started in 2007, when an economic development group from Calgary proposed that the Canada's largest cities should work together. The idea surfaced again three months ago, prompted by Canada's startling performance during the recent global economic downturn.

Canada has outpaced the world in its economic recovery. Canada is now the only G7 nation to have recouped its losses from the recent recession, as both real Gross Domestic Product and employment remain below pre-recession levels, according to Statistics Canada. Coupled with a strong banking system and wealth of natural resources, the country is quickly becoming a magnet for international investment.

The world interest in Canada got the country's largest municipalities talking again, according to Darch. It was then that they hammered out the agreement for the C-11, which will see each of the 11 economic development agencies share the costs of the international marketing initiative.

Darch said the group was looking to secure federal funding for its initiative.

By:Vito Pilieci  Source:Ottawa Citizen
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