New investment attraction agency part of city economic development strategy

By KRYSTLE CHOW
Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
June 30, 2011 on OBJ.ca (July 11 in the paper edition)

Click here to view this article on OBJ.ca.

An OCRI-led initiative to attract fresh investment to Ottawa is among the highlights detailed in a new report on the city’s economic development plan, released Thursday.

Late in the afternoon before the Canada Day long weekend, the city said $1.55 million would go towards creating a new program, dubbed “Invest Ottawa,” in conjunction with OCRI.

The initiative, which will be launched in the fall of 2011, “will be focused on attracting investment and expanding and retaining businesses in key industry sectors,” from some of Ottawa’s key technological strongholds, such as life sciences and aerospace and defence, to up-and-coming spaces such as digital media and green energy, the city said. The funding for Invest Ottawa is expected to increase to $2.27 million by 2012.

“This economic development plan is … about responding to an ever-changing and highly competitive economic climate and creating the conditions for success and continued prosperity for Ottawa,” said Mayor Jim Watson in a statement.

Invest Ottawa will also serve to increase support for film and television, which the city called an “underdeveloped component of our creative economy.”

While there were few details on how the funding for the industry would be directed, the sector’s participants are advocating for an increase in local production space. The local film industry generated $23 million in direct spending citywide in 2010, according to the Ottawa-Gatineau Film and Television Corp. in an earlier OBJ story.

Ottawa’s tourism sector – which many had anticipated would be the big winner in the revamped plan – will get $505,000 in 2011 to attract major cultural and sporting events, which will increase to $550,000 next year.

Ottawa Tourism CEO Noel Buckley applauded the announcement, saying the city often took an ad-hoc approach to bidding on large events in the past.

This funding, he said, would allow the city to prioritize which events it wants to attract, and reflect on what will generate the largest economic impact.

“It’s an extremely lucrative market,” said Mr. Buckley in an interview, calling events such as next year’s NHL All-Star game “significant economic generators.”

The plan also indicated a $1.4-million commitment to enhance entrepreneurship programming, which includes the creation of a business incubation space, and increased support to the city’s business improvement areas and local economic development agents.

If approved, the strategy will channel a total of $5.5 million in annual funding towards various economic development projects and initiatives, the city said.

The news provides additional clarification on the direction for the city’s five-year Partnerships for Prosperity plan, which was approved in July 2010. Council then approved a $2-million increase earmarked for economic development priorities as part of the 2011 budget, representing a 57-per-cent jump over the 2010 budget.

-With a report by Peter Kovessy

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