An innovation complex the city is planning for downtown will make a huge difference in making the capital a hub for entrepreneurs, the head of a large Toronto-based venture capital investment firm told Ottawa’s business community Thursday.
John Ruffolo is the CEO of OMERS Ventures.
John Ruffolo, the CEO of Omers Ventures, said facilities like the one proposed for Bayview Yards are a big help when it comes to attracting investors to the city.
“This is absolutely critical because what is missing in Ottawa is a hub,” said Mr. Ruffolo. “You have it in Kanata, in terms of a lot of the telecom companies around there, but when I look at Ottawa itself, there really is not a cluster where the ecosystem clusters around it.”
The only area in the downtown core that resembles what the innovation complex could provide is the offices that Shopify has close to the ByWard Market, he said, so the innovation complex is an important project.
“These are the sorts of things that will really start to attract that capital and coalesce that cluster, so (it’s) very exciting,” said Mr. Ruffolo.
The city announced in January plans to make the 150,000-square foot building at the facility home to business incubation space, commercial tenants and meeting rooms. It would also house the city’s lead economic development agency, Invest Ottawa.
However details about how exactly the city plans to make the project a success are still largely under wraps.
Little has been said about the facility in the nine months since the announcement of provincial funding for the facility. City staff said they wouldn’t say more about the project until a report on the subject is presented to the finance and economic development committee later this year.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, speaking as part of the same event, mentioned the innovation complex as one of his economic development priorities but did not shed any more light on when the project would be moving forward.
Meanwhile Mr. Ruffolo said his firm is generally excited about what is going on in Ottawa.
The city has a number of good universities, he said, which can be a great spark for entrepreneurship.
The city’s plan to spend billions of dollars on a new light-rail transit system is also encouraging, he said, since it plays a role in developing the innovation sector.
These are some of the reasons why Ottawa has ranked second in the amount of money OMERS has invested in Canadian cities, he said.
Mr. Ruffolo spoke Thursday as part of the Ottawa’s Economic Outlook Event, co-hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.