Invest Ottawa chief pitches city for more funding in 2019

Michael Tremblay

Invest Ottawa CEO Mike Tremblay gave city councillors an idea of the agency’s economic impact on Tuesday, looking to court future funding when the organization’s budget is up for renewal in 2019.

In a presentation to the finance and economic development committee on Tuesday, Tremblay unveiled the results of two independently commissioned economic impact studies, both of which highlighted the economic returns – and potential – of Invest Ottawa’s work in building up local startups and attracting foreign direct investment. With more funding, the organization could do even more, Tremblay suggested.

Invest Ottawa currently operates on a $10-million annual budget with funding from all three levels of government, in addition to corporate sponsorships. The agency’s municipal funding will be up for debate next year with the implementation of a new multi-year economic development strategy.

Towards the end of his presentation, Tremblay made his pitch to the committee for extra funding come 2019: “We have an enormous amount of work to do … We really do need to look for additional support going forward.”

He added that he would return to FEDCO in the near future with options to expand Invest Ottawa’s services through additional funding. In the past, he has mentioned a physical expansion to Bayview Yards as a growth prospect, but Tremblay said Wednesday that the organization specifically needs money for its campaign to attract foreign talent to Ottawa.

He updated councilors on the agency’s Work in Ottawa campaign, launched last year to attract U.S. talent to the capital. Thus far, the online ad campaign has garnered six million hits and 6,000 visits to the campaign landing page from U.S. hubs such as Dallas, New York City, Boston and Silicon Valley. Tremblay said these early results were promising, and suggested further investment could do more to attract foreign talent to the city.

A perceived lack of available skilled workers in the city has often been a top concern for local business leaders, according to the Ottawa Business Growth Survey.

Tremblay spent the rest of the meeting giving councilors a window into Invest Ottawa’s priorities and highlighting local businesses. He pitched four economic sectors to focus Ottawa’s potential around: government transformation, healthcare, smart cities and precision agriculture.

Ottawa needs to both embrace its reputation as a government town and cast off the perception that it doesn’t have a vibrant technology community, Tremblay told councillors, by focusing on government tech. He drew attention to the city’s developments in autonomous vehicles as an indicator of smart city potential, and highlighted local firms such as Welbi, Snapclarity, FarmLead and The Growcer as examples of promising startups in healthcare and agri-tech.

Tremblay fielded a few questions from councilors at the end of his presentation and appeared to have an ally in Coun. Jan Harder, who suggested the time was fast approaching for the city to invest in its own tech sector.

“We don’t have the capacity with the investment we’re making now,” she said.

“We have so much opportunity coming our way … The results will be worth the investment.”

Invest Ottawa’s purported economic impact:

  • $684 million to the city’s GDP over the past five years (KPMG)

  • 3,000 direct, 2,000 indirect jobs created over the past five years (KPMG)

  • Economic return of $6.43 for every dollar of public funding Invest Ottawa has received (Deloitte)

  • If Invest Ottawa's budget were raised to 275% of today’s funding levels, that return would rise to $15.53 (Deloitte)