The City of Ottawa’s Economic Strategy 2015 Update known as Partnerships for Innovation has its vision to be a leader in innovation for economic prosperity. This vision statement is based on the following assessment:
Today’s economy is global, competitive, and rapidly evolving through technology and innovation. To excel and outperform, municipalities are proactively investing in economic development initiatives that encourage investment attraction and business expansion and retention, foster entrepreneurship and innovation, strengthen tourism, and provide the necessary tools and research to make informed decisions.
The City’s Economic Strategy is also derived from the argument that Ottawa’s dependency on the federal government has in fact discouraged new investment on the part of private industry and indeed, has created a situation where the local economy is in imminent peril because of its downsizing and spending cuts.
Mayor Watson seemed to be impressed when the prestigious fDi Magazine selected Ottawa as the most “Business Friendly” mid-sized city in the Western Hemisphere. Invest Ottawa was also excited about the news and sent its Vice-President along with Councillor Stephen Blais to Anchorage Alaska to pick up the award at the International Economic Development ceremony.
Not only was it the most Business Friendly mid-sized city, Ottawa was also beat out by only Raleigh, North Carolina and Oakland, California as the overall top mid-sized “City of the Future”. Brampton was the only other Canadian city making the overall top 10 in the mid-size category coming in at number 9. Continue reading
Ever since the Queen Victoria’s selection of Ottawa as the Capital of the United Province of Canada, economic diversification has appeared as a rallying cry on the part of local public and business representatives. In 1906, Mayor Ellis laid out the challenge that “the time has come when Ottawa must decide whether it is for all time to be simply the seat of Government and a Departmental City, or whether it not become also an industrial centre” with its excellent “rail facilities and unrivalled water power” (City of Ottawa Council Minutes 1906). Continue reading
Globalization and its concomitant concepts of global cities, control-and-command centres, and city mega-regions are much in vogue these days. Globalization has been identified as being the cause (blame?) for many of the challenges faced by larger Canadian cities ranging from governance (e.g. amalgamation) to economic competitiveness to investment in municipal infrastructure. The rationale commonly presented by municipal representatives is that, in the face of powerful social, political and economic globalization forces, metropolitan cities throughout Canada must strengthen their competitiveness in the world economy in order to maintain and sustain local prosperity and high quality of life. Continue reading
At the February 2012 official opening of Invest Ottawa (the City’s economic development / investment attraction agency), Mayor Jim Watson stated,
“One of my priorities . . . was to establish Invest Ottawa to help attract more investment and foster greater economic growth in our nation’s capital. . . Recent headlines surrounding public service job losses underscore the need to diversify our local economy, and Invest Ottawa is going to help us do just that. Invest Ottawa is a clear commitment to inspire more entrepreneurs to build our prosperity to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.” (Invest Ottawa opening Mayor Watson))
Later in the year, the Mayor further elaborated in his 2012 State of the Economy address on the challenges facing the City resulting from the federal government’s austerity measures. He stated that “in this new federal government dynamic, we have the most to lose but we also have the most to gain”. To prevent Ottawa from becoming “a shadow of its former self”, the Mayor added that “we can no longer depend on the federal government to shelter us from [economic] storms or drive our economy … instead, we will construct a new economic engine … an engine that is more diverse – that runs on more than just one industry” (2012 State of the Economy link). This doom and gloom shows up even the City’s Economic Development Strategy stating that the local economy is in peril as a result to the federal government’s budget cutbacks. Continue reading
The following post lists my concluding observations on the previous blogs looking at different economic indicators and trends related to Ottawa’s high-tech sector and how the sector has performed relative to other key Canadian technology cluster centres. I also list some random impressions which are not directly the result of the analysis of performance indicators but are still reflective of my general impressions from reading the media articles and other literature.
The single most defining factor underlying the development of sustainable high-tech clusters is the ability of the local economy to support innovation and entrepreneurship which has also often described as the startup or entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is true irrespective of which cluster location is analyzed – Ottawa, Waterloo, Calgary, Montreal or San Jose / Silicon Valley. A strong ecosystem is highly collaborative and fosters innovation through the sharing of ideas and fostering partnerships and networks. The startup ecosystem can be comprised of several key elements including the presence of federal government research labs, strong university linkages to private industry, presence of major anchor technology firms, accessibility to venture capital, and availability of specialized professional and technical services. Such communities also tend to be very resilient whereby failures of individual companies like Nortel can spin-off new technology firms. Continue reading