Huge Economic Benefits Expected from Hard Rock Ottawa Casino but Don’t Bet On It

Since the first casino opened in Windsor in 1994, there has been a proliferation of gaming (a.k.a. gambling) facilities throughout Ontario under the watchful authority of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Authority (OLG). From the early bingo halls in church basements to today’s mega hotel-casino-theatre entertainment complexes, gaming is big business in North America.

The Nation’s Capital has had a part of the casino wave. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was discussion about getting a casino on Sparks Street to inject some excitement to the otherwise dead downtown. Instead, Hull (now Gatineau) beat Ottawa  to the punch and built a world class Casino du Lac-Leamy with a 5-star Hilton Hotel within an eye’s view of the then young National Gallery of Canada. When Lac-Leamy opened in March 1996, there were 14 other gaming establishments within a 500-mile radius compared to more than 80 two decades later (Ottawa Citizen). Ottawa did get on to the casino bandwagon eventually albeit in a less celebratory way when the 1,200 slot machines were installed at the Rideau Carleton Raceway in 2000 to support the declining horse racing attendance. Continue reading

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Reframing Economic Clusters in Ottawa: Thinking Outside the High Tech Box

The concepts of economic clusters and entrepreneurial ecosystems continue to have a strong presence in today’s strategic thinking. For example, the federal government recently announced a short list of proposed “innovation superclusters” as part of its $950 million initiative. Invest Ottawa promotes the growth of six high growth knowledge-based industries – life sciences, software, digital media, communications technology, clean technologies and, aerospace, defence and security. As illustrated by Invest Ottawa’s six high growth sectors, cluster strategies typically focus on advanced technology industries. The region is now being touted as being Canada’s Autonomous Vehicle innovation cluster. Continue reading

In Search of Balanced Job and Population Growth in Orleans

As I mentioned in an Orleans Community Improvement Plan, there has been a long-standing issue that Orleans has experienced limited employment growth compared to the rest of the City or other suburbs like Kanata which in turn has limited the opportunities for residents to live and work in the community. As a result, Orleans residents face commuting traffic gridlock every morning and evening. This employment/population imbalance is frequently raised in virtually every recent election held in the community – federal, provincial or municipal. Continue reading

Beyond Likes and Followers – Social Media and Local Economic Development

Social media has quickly emerged as a dominant mode of communications and interaction in today’s society whether it be in current events, political elections, entertainment news, open government and a slew of other subjects. Over the last ten years, local economic development agencies have increasingly turned to social media as a means for branding and marketing their communities, assisting in site selections or location decisions, forging networks with local businesses and establish direct contacts with business decision makers. Continue reading

What does really matter when it comes to the City of Ottawa’s Economic Development Strategy?

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.

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Taking Performance Rankings For Another Spin – This Time It’s fDi’s City of the Future

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

Ottawa and Regional Economic Development in Eastern Ontario – A Missing Piece in Today’s Strategic Thinking?

Many decades ago when I was a grad student at McMaster University, my research was focused on regional development and growth poles.  Growth pole theory was a very popular topic in those days in both the academic world as well as in public sector regional development policy. The thinking behind growth pole strategies was, very simply, to deliberately channel growth and investment in a few selected centres, which would then have a positive economic impact on the surrounding lagging regions or hinterland through various “spread” or “spillover” or “trickle down” effects.  Growth pole theory was fundamental to the approach undertaken by, for example, the federal government Department of Regional Economic Expansion (DREE) created by the Trudeau government in 1969. Growth pole initiatives however, were abandoned in the 1970’s and deemed as failures in most countries, largely because they failed to generate the spillover effects predicted by the theory. DREE was disbanded in 1982. Continue reading