Podcast: How Amazon, Air Canada and Solink shaped Ottawa's economy this week

In this Behind the Headlines podcast episode, OBJ publisher Michael Curran speaks with OBJ editors David Sali and Peter Kovessy about some of the week’s most-read local business stories on OBJ.ca.

This is an edited transcript of the panel discussion. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify:

CURRAN: Amazon announced that it would be moving into the 2.7-million-square-foot development in the Citigate Business Park. Peter, can you tell us about the significance of this announcement?

KOVESSY: The news this week really brought an end to the speculation about who would be the tenant in this massive development. 

One of the most significant part of this story however is the 1,000 jobs that it will create. Some people were quick to point out that the jobs are paying $16 an hour, which may not be what economic development officials dream of, but there is a definite contrast between the current unemployment rate and where the city was when Amazon opened its first facility in Ottawa on Boundary Road. Unemployment was near its lowest point in a generation then and people were questioning where it was going to find workers to fill the plant. Today, there are of course sectors that are still months away from getting back to where they were financially, so certainly from an employment point of view this is great news for the local economy. 

CURRAN: Kanata-based Solink announced a $23-million financing round, which is pretty significant in this environment. Dave, tell us about what’s happening over there. 

SALI: They are another cool Kanata company that uses artificial intelligence to help customers with their security and workflow analytics. The CEO told me they are going to use the $23 million to ramp up and expand into other verticals. He says he sees a golden opportunity for Solink in warehouses and distribution centres where companies could look at video and scanning analytics to figure out how they can be more efficient and move deliveries even quicker. He also hopes to better penetrate the verticals the company is already in, and hopefully tap into a greater number of client’s businesses. 

CURRAN: Air Canada announced it was cutting five direct flights from Ottawa. Peter, can you tell us about those and what it will mean for the city? 

KOVESSY: Flights to London, Regina, Saskatoon, Moncton and Fredericton are all being put on hold. This isn’t good news, however there are a few things to keep in mind here.

Air Canada is facing some significant global challenges right now and this is part of a national trend. So this announcement is not a reflection of the strength of the Ottawa market or demand in the city, but instead part of a company-wide decision. The other important part is that these are secondary markets. While we do want as many direct flights as possible, airlines like Air Canada have a habit of trying to funnel a lot of passengers through their major hubs – Toronto for example – so it is important to remember that we still have direct routes to major markets.