‘Forgotten’ Orléans business community asks city for east-end startup incubator

The Shenkman Arts Centre in Orléans, for illustrative purposes only.

As municipal councillors worked to finalize next year’s budget, the head of the Orléans Chamber of Commerce asked the city for more resources to support east-end businesses.

On Tuesday, Sean Crossan – the chair of the Orléans Chamber of Commerce – asked councillors on the city’s finance and economic development committee for $40,000 in funding and resources to help the organization “define our innovative future.”

He said this includes working with post-secondary institutions and government research centres to develop incubation and startup spaces as part of an Orléans economic development plan that’s tied to a broader regional strategy.

Ottawa is already home to roughly a half-dozen incubators and accelerators aimed at fostering and scaling startups. These include Lead to Win at Carleton University, Invest Ottawa’s Incite Incubator at Bayview Yards, the SaaS-focused L-Spark accelerator backed by Wesley Clover and Startup Garage at the University of Ottawa.

None have a permanent home east of King Edward Avenue.

“Orléans has been forgotten in the economic development picture,” Mr. Crossan said, adding that the city’s east-end employment rate is “extremely low.”

Sean Crossan is the chair of the Orléans Chamber of Commerce.

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder said she disagreed with the suggestion that the city has neglected Orléans and pointed to municipal studies and programs aimed at encouraging development along St. Joseph Boulevard as an example.

She also noted that Orléans, and east Ottawa generally, will be among the first communities to benefit from the city’s light-rail line rollout in the coming years.

“Why, with all of that investment that the city has made in bringing LRT ... right into Orléans, would you actually believe you could come here and ask us for $40,000?” she asked.

The committee did not add Mr. Crossan’s requested funding to its budget and instead passed the draft financial document without any amendments.

However, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans – who called Mr. Crossan’s call for more money “a little bit unusual” – clarified that city staff could still choose to provide funding for the Orléans Chamber of Commerce’s projects out of their existing economic development budget.

In a statement to OBJ, John Smit – the city’s director of economic development and long-range planning – said the Orléans Chamber of Commerce can make an application for a community economic development grant.

2% tax hike applauded

Later on Tuesday, city councillors heard from the CEOs of two of the city’s other regional business organizations: Ian Faris of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and Sueling Ching of the West Ottawa Board of Trade.

In a joint submission, they “applauded” the city’s decision to limit the property tax increase to two per cent.

“The combination of fiscal responsibility in spending combined with innovative investments in economic development will garner us the greatest long-term results,” Mr. Faris said.

Sueling Ching
Sueling Ching is CEO of the West Ottawa Board of Trade.

However, the two organizations also asked for more information on how the city uses tax dollars to support businesses. Specifically, they said the budget should clearly delineate how much money is spent on economic development activities and infrastructure, where it is spent as well as the expected deliverables and outcomes.

Ms. Ching called it a “way of holding each other accountable and identifying gaps and solutions.”