Ottawa has a new attitude in economic development

Invest Ottawa officially opened its doors to about 500 people on Tuesday to show the “flagship” of the City’s $5.5 million annual economic development strategy.

The new organization replaces the Ottawa Centre for Regional Innovation, which had been in operation since 1983 and focused on the region’s tech sector. Invest Ottawa will set out to bring growth to startups, attract investment from all around the world, and help companies establish business outside of Canada. It will have a broader focus, leveraging knowledge-based sectors in addition to tech sectors, such as life sciences and film.

“Backed by more resources, and the City’s commitment to helping our next generation of entrepreneurs succeed on a global basis and create great local jobs as they grow, Ottawa will just keep getting better,” stated Bruce Lazenby, president and CEO for Invest Ottawa. Mr. Lazenby said one way of making sure companies settle in Ottawa is to attract the large amount of growing talent in the city, citing 113,000 university graduates in Ottawa and 4600 engineering students at Carleton University.

To attract and assist startups, Invest Ottawa has opened an accelerator program for about 90 entrepreneurs. Those selected for the program will be surround with lawyers and accountants, mentors and potential customers.

About 30 of the seats in the facility will be designated for Ottawa Young Entrepreneurs, a program run out of Carleton University by Dr. Tony Baletti.

There were several startups present during the open house, representing a wide range of industries, including clean-tech, gaming, mobile applications and social media.

The launch comes almost three months after a consolidation of a number of organizations into a office space located near the downtown core. It has also witnessed the municipality take on an increased role in economic development.

“One of my priorities in this mandate was to establish Invest Ottawa to help attract more investment and foster greater economic growth in our nation’s capital,” stated Ottawa mayor Jim Watson.

“Invest Ottawa is a one-stop shopping experience for businesses that want to locate here, or want to expand.”

Harley Finkelstein, chief platform officer for Ottawa-based, e-commerce giant Shopify, spoke briefly at the event. He said that it is important to see startups succeed because they create more jobs on an annual basis then older established companies.

“Ottawa has the entrepreneur’s spirit, it just needs to be provoked and encouraged,” Mr. Finkelstein said.

He added that Shopify plans on “doubling down” in Ottawa, saying that it wants to build a billion dollar company in the city.