Showing posts from 2012

Ontario Jobs & Prosperity Council emphasizes exports, productivity, innovation

Advantage Ontario, the full report of the Ontario Jobs & Prosperity Council—chaired by Royal Bank CEO Gord Nixon—was released on Wednesday. It focuses on five areas: exports, productivity, innovation/entrepreneurship, skills/training, and regulation.

The report mostly repeats a lot of familiar observations at a very high level, so we get the usual (which isn't to say incorrect) plaints about how Ontario businesses underinvest in R&D, how the regulatory burden is an impediment to growth, that our companies need to focus more on exports to emerging markets, that government business support programs are too fragmented, immigration is vital, manufacturing is critical to the economy, not enough parents and students appreciate careers in the skilled trades, and so on. All things we've heard many times before.

Which would be fine, if the report facilitated action on fixing these issues, but in most cases the recommendations are only a notch or two above "something shoul…

FedDev Q2 fundings include Maluuba, Avenir, Dejero, Axonify, GTAN and Cyborg Trading

Kudos to the staff at FedDev for announcing most of the contributions for the July to September period before the quarterly disclosures were posted. The most significant not-yet-announced funding from the list is $925,000 for Dejero, made through FedDev's Investing in Business Innovation program (which means there was additional angel funding for the company as well).

Angel groups across Southern Ontario are getting $100,000 this year from FedDev and GTAN received its funding in the quarter.

Funding to businesses is repayble.

Disclosed FedDev fundings in (or related to) Southwestern Ontario:

MaluubaWaterloo$980,000Avenir Medical Waterloo$950,000DejeroWaterloo$925,000AxonifyWaterloo$750,000Sweet ToothWaterloo$750,000Cyborg Trading SystemsLondon$381,500Ontario Association Of CFDCsSt. Thomas  $170,000AURP CanadaWaterloo$129,500Golden Triangle Angel NetworkCambridge$100,000Western Ontario CFDC AssociationThorold$45,000
AURP Canada is a national organization, headed by Carol Stewart …

A&L Labs (London) and Communitech top SWO IRAP contributions, July-September

IRAP has disclosed its Q2 contributions—the period covering July, August, and September. Topping the list among recipients in Southwestern Ontario is A&L Labs in London and Communitech in Waterloo Region, with London's Quantum5X also in the six-figure range.

Other recipients include Big Blue Bubble, TechAlliance, Avvasi, CrossChasm, Aeryon, IMAP, Akira, Powernoodle, Renix, Neoventures, and LifeLike Biotissue.

Disclosed IRAP contributions for Southwestern Ontario:

A&L Laboratories Canada London $436,839CommunitechKitchener$300,000Quantum5x SystemsLondon$126,623Delhi SolacDelhi$80,095Big Blue BubbleLondon$60,000Can-TechnologiesCambridge$50,000Clearwater ClinicalLondon$50,000PolyanalytikLondon$50,000TechAllianceLondon$50,000Ontario Drive And GearNew Hamburg  $50,000MittenParis$50,000AvvasiWaterloo$50,000Crosschasm TechnologiesWaterloo$50,000Huron Technologies InternationalWaterloo$50,000Aeryon LabsWaterloo$50,000CS Automotive TubingLondon$49,988Bluewater Wood AllianceWalkerto…

Middlesex County tops SWO for residential assessment increases ... farmland values jump

The 2012 MPAC property assessment results are all in, and all regions of Southwestern Ontario fell below the provincial average of an 18.0% increase in residential property value between 2008 and 2012.

Across the region, the highest average increase was in Middlesex County—my new(ish) home—at 17.0%, followed by Grey (16.3%) and Bruce (15.8%) Counties and Guelph (15.5%), with Waterloo Region (15.3%) and Huron County (14.8%) close behind.

(In the MPAC announcement, Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk were lumped together with a range of 8.3% to 10.3% for the three. I used the mid-point for the graph.)

Windsor was at the other end of the scale with a 0.3% increase, followed by Sarnia at 1.8%.

In Ontario, the highest reported increase was in Timiskaming, where assessments were up an average 36.8%. But that doesn't come close to the increases for farmland:

The value of farmland has skyrocketed in Southwestern Ontario over the last four years, with the biggest increases coming in Chatham-Kent (65.6…

Cyborg Trading Systems shows that exciting tech startups can come out of London

So far, most of the FedDev funding for businesses in the London area—other than the huge $10 million contribution to help Mississauga-based Dr. Oetker Canada build a London facility—has come indirectly, though programs such as the Graduate Enterprise Internship ($1.8 million provided to the Research Park/Stiller Centre, most of which gets passed through to companies to help them hire STEM graduates) and the Applied Research and Commercialization initiative ($1.25 million to Western to enable the university to work on projects on behalf of companies).

So the announcement that will be made later today by MP Susan Truppe of FedDev funding for London-based Cyborg Trading Systems is something different and exciting for the city—and FedDev couldn't have selected a better company.

When I started working in London in the fall of 2010, Cyborg had just become a client of the Waterloo Accelerator Centre's Accelerator Program and had opened an office at the Communitech Hub in Kitchener. B…

The real gap between London and Waterloo in FedDev fundings

Getting back to FedDev and the differences in funding between Waterloo and London (see "Gap between FedDev spending in Waterloo and London not as large as it looks," September 10)—a discussion initiated by a couple of stories in the London Free Press.

The Free Press tried to aggregate all FedDev money going to Waterloo and London over the last three years—and didn't do it well. But even if you could do it well, it's an approach that's going to hide more than it reveals.

FedDev's focus has changed significantly over that period. Early on, funds went to municipalities to help them upgrade their recreation infrastructure—arenas, swimming pools, sports fields, and so on. Just in Southwestern Ontario alone that amounted to more than $40 million.

More recently, there's been an emphasis on providing (repayable) funds to businesses to help them attract investment and improve competitiveness. So if you're looking to draw conclusions about support for business—…

Highlights of Ontario commercialization/innovation spending, FY2012

The Public Accounts of Ontario for fiscal year 2012 (ended March 31) have been released, showing—among other things—the transfer payments made by the Ontario government to various organizations though the year.

Some highlights from the commercialization/innovation sector:

Some of these dollars are passed through to other organizations, but that level of detail isn't provided. Many of these organizations receive other Ontario government funds, but these are the direct transfer payments recorded in the public accounts. Several of these fundings were through the Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE) program, which has about another 10 months to go under existing contracts.

Overall, the top recipients as shown in the public accounts for the research and commercialization sector were the Ontario Institute For Cancer Research ($82.1 million), Hospital For Sick Children ($49.6 million) and the University Of Toronto ($42.6 million). OCE was fourth.

Gap between FedDev spending in Waterloo and London not as large as it looks

I've used government disclosure statements as the basis of reports for years, but I still get a little uneasy when I do. They're almost never as clear or detailed as you'd wish, and can be a minefield for the unsuspecting.

A story last week in the London Free Press (a follow up on an earlier story I hadn't seen) compares contributions made by FedDev in the Waterloo and London areas—a story based on FedDev disclosure statements over the years.

On the one hand, it concludes that Waterloo Region is more aggressive about pursuing government funding than the London area, and that's been my experience as well—specifically, in the tech sector.

But the story manages to fall into some of the traps that await readers of disclosure statements. And in so doing, I think it misses the interesting story that the FedDev numbers point to—one that's a bit concerning from a London perspective (which I'll save for another time, since my blog posts are usually way too long).


IRAP Q1 contributions in Southwestern Ontario include RDM, ExactEarth, Systems Logic, Compudata

Waterloo Region's RDM and ExactEarth were among the companies in Southwestern Ontario that received IRAP contributions in the first quarter of FY2013. The largest project was from Essex County's Concours Mold.

Disclosed Q1 contributions:

Concours Mold Inc.Lakeshore (Essex)  $200,000MDL Doors Inc.Brussels (Huron)$85,246Apogee Engineered Ceramics Inc.Brantford$50,000Blue North Strategies Inc.Guelph$50,000ExactEarth Ltd.Cambridge$50,000RDM CorporationWaterloo$50,000Systems LogicBrantford$50,000Pavaco Plastics Inc.Guelph$45,751Ramstar Carbide Tool Inc.Windsor$40,000Bluestreak Equipment Inc.Delhi (Norfolk)$39,528Ball Media Corp.Brantford$30,000Compudata Systems London Inc.London$30,000
There was also an expansion of a project with Guelph's Biorem that began last year. Contributions below $25,000 are not disclosed., Fongo top FedDev's Q1 fundings in Southwestern Ontario

Fed Dev has disclosed its contributions for the first quarter of fiscal year 2013, covering the April-May-June period. Three companies from Southwestern Ontario are on the list: Guelph's, Cambridge's Fongo and Brantford's Systems Logic. FedDev contributions to businesses are repayable.

Q1 fundings in Southwestern Ontario:, Inc.Guelph$975,000Fongo Inc.Cambridge  $850,000Systems LogicBrantford$366,667Universities/Colleges:Conestoga CollegeKitchener$750,000University of WaterlooWaterloo$750,000University of WindsorWindsor$750,000University of GuelphGuelph$650,000University of Western OntarioLondon$500,000Lambton CollegeSarnia$285,000CFDCs:Essex CFDCEssex$610,000Elgin CFDCSt Thomas$570,000CFDC of Wellington-Waterloo  Elora$570,000Brant CFDCBrantford$570,000
All Community Futures Development Corporations in Southern Ontario receive their funding through FedDev. The funding for universities and colleges is under the applied research program and wil…

Panel says horse racing industry needs public funds to survive

A few years ago, a couple of my hobbies led me to read over hundreds of sports sections from the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Although I was scanning for particular information, a couple of general trends jumped out.

First, that day-to-day coverage of local women's sports was much stronger in the 1930s than it is today, and second, the huge role of horse racing in mainstream Toronto sporting life. It was everywhere. I wasn't researching horse racing, but it was impossible to avoid reading about it, and it was impressive.

I'd never been to the races, but after immersing myself in these old sports sections and the Toronto sports world of that era, it felt like something I should do. I got as far as taking a look at the website for Mohawk Racetrack—not very far from Waterloo—but I never did go. Nostalgia only goes so far, and whatever horse racing once was as a cultural force, it sure wasn't any more and hadn't been for decades. In…

Canadian tech sector isn't vanishing, but its mainstream halo is fading

A story in the Globe a week-and-a-half ago headlined "Canada's vanishing tech sector" generated strong responses from two sources:
People who work in the tech sector, especially those in the startup community who could name a hundred companies off the top of their heads and know they could easily find hundreds more from a growing list. Folks in the finance/venture capital sector, since the blame for this "vanishing" was laid at their feet. But while you could quibble with—and sometimes flatly refute—some of the claims in the story, it does point to a key issue that shouldn't be quickly dismissed. The essence of that point was captured in this line: "for the first time in at least a generation, Canada lacks a single, healthy large-capitalization tech champion."

Vanishing to the mainstream
The Canadian tech sector hasn't vanished, but it is fading from mainstream radar screens.And that could be a problem for the sector, especially when it comes…

Norfolk County economic strategy on hold: ideas and execution

In the startup world, you hear every day that ideas are typically a dime-a-dozen and the real challenge is execution.

It's not just true for startups.

Over the last year, I've seen over and over again with economic development in small urban and rural areas that there's no shortage of good ideas (or of mediocre and poor ones, for that matter), but there are formidable barriers to execution. Sometimes it's having the experience and expertise to filter out those good ideas or in overcoming inertia and complacency, but often it's the challenge of putting together the necessary resources—money and people, in particular—to implement them.

I was reminded of that again last week when Norfolk County Council voted to postpone its decision on funding much of its economic development strategy ("Norfolk told to move on economic development," Simcoe Reformer, July 3). The strategy was developed last year and further refined earlier this year in a process that involved…

London and the 20-44-year-old workforce

Emerging Leaders recently published the results of a survey suggesesting that a lot of Londoners in the 20-44 age range think they may choose to leave the city over the next 10 years.

Of the 280 respondents—most of whom were in the 20-44 age group—21% said they were not likely to remain in London for the next 10 years and only 43% said they were very likely to stay put (the rest said they were "somewhat likely" to remain).

That's not a comforting number—and Emerging Leaders will be spending the summer developing some options for retaining the 20-44 year old workforce.

London actually starts from a great advantage when it comes to youth—most communities would love to have the same concentration of well-educated people in their 20s that London has.

Among the communities I've been looking at in Southwestern/Southern Ontario, only the City of Waterloo had a higher percentage of people in their 20s (see "Education and age differences across Southwestern Ontario and …

Waterloo—not as young as it used to be (unlike the rest of us)

Over the years I lived in the City of Waterloo, it always had a much younger population than the national or provincial average—something you'd expect in a city with two universities and a population of just 100,000 (even though students are counted in their "home" regions by the census).

That remained the case with the 2011 census, where Waterloo's median age was 37.6 compared to the Ontario median of 40.4—and where Waterloo had 16.4% of its population in their 20s, the largest number among the 11 communities I looked at and well above the provincial average of 13.0%.

But once you break down the numbers a little more, Waterloo's youthfulness definitely faded between the 2006 and 2011 censuses.

Its median age was up from 35.4 in 2006 and Waterloo showed a decline in every one of the nine age categories under 45 with the exception of 15-19, where it essentially remained flat.

Of the 11 communities I looked at, it was one of only three that showed a drop in its nu…

FedDev formally announces new regional loan fund for small "knowledge-based" businesses

FedDev today officially announced the $12 million funding for the Western Ontario CFDC Association that I mentioned last month (see "Some FedDev fundings from January, February, March," June 5). The money is being used to create a new fund that will provide knowledge-based small and medium-sized businesses loans of up to $500,000.

All of Southwestern Ontario is in the region covered by the new fund. The Eastern Ontario CFDC Network has received $8 million for a similar fund for that region. Together, FedDev is calling the two new funds the Southern Ontario Fund for Investment in Innovation (SOFII).

Businesses can receive loans from $150,000 to $500,000. FedDev says companies will use the money for "all aspects of innovative SME growth challenges, including: late stage commercialization, new product or service development, new applications or markets, and development or implementation of new processes or technologies."

Although the core programs of CFDCs have focu…

No Southwestern Ontario Development Fund ... for now, anyway

The Ontario legislature has adjourned for the summer and the bill that would have created the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF) got all the way to third reading debate but no further. [UPDATE: When the MPPs returned early to Queen's Park to prevent a teachers' strike, they also concluded third reading debate on Bill 11 and passed it on August 28.]

Just a few weeks ago, things seemed to be looking pretty good for Bill 11—the Attracting Investment and Creating Jobs Act, 2012 ("Path looks clear for the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund", May 2).

It had made it through committee with the addition of some amendments from the NDP (which they were proud of—London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong called it "the first government bill in a generation that has been substantially rewritten in committee"). The governing Liberals and NDP had reached an agreement—or so it seemed—to pass the budget, and that appeared to leave plenty of time for third reading…

Now I know where farm country is ... and see the food processing opportunities

When I lived in Waterloo, I used to be able to say that when I left my house, if I went right I'd be driving past farm fields in two minutes and if I went left I could be in downtown Waterloo in about three minutes. Having only lived in the Toronto and Boston areas before moving to Waterloo, being close to farms was a new experience—and one I really enjoyed (by the time I moved away, I was also a two-minute drive from Walmart—the neighbourhood was changing).

The western edge of Waterloo may have seemed somewhat rural to a Torontonian's eyes, but now that I've been living and working in the small urban and rural parts of Southwestern Ontario for a while, I finally know what real farm country looks like.

Statistics Canada recently released its 2011 Census of Agriculture, and the numbers bear out what I've experienced. When it comes to farms, Waterloo Region has nothing on most of Southwestern Ontario:

Waterloo falls near the bottom of the list for number of farms, althou…

IRAP Q4 contributions for Digital Extremes, Sumagen, Polyanalytik, Miovision, Communitech, Plantform

A strong end to the fiscal year for London and area companies for NRC-IRAP contributions ($25K minimum). Disclosed for the quarter ended March 31 (Q4 12) were:

Sumagen Canada Inc. London $1,014,000Digital Extremes Ltd. London $77,000The Sansin Corporation Strathroy $34,140Polyanalytik Inc. London $30,000
The Sumagen funding was the largest disclosed NRC-IRAP contribution in the region for the year. The full list for fiscal 2012—much shorter than what we saw in the previous two years with the additional stimulus funding:

Sumagen Canada Inc. London $1,014,000Cyborg Trading SystemsLondon$115,000Digital Extremes Ltd. London $77,000Quantum5x Systems Inc.London$50,000Bluestreak Equipment Inc.Delhi$49,050The Sansin Corporation Strathroy $34,140Techalliance Of Southwestern Ontario Inc.London$30,000Polyanalytik Inc. London $30,000The Money Broker Inc.Blenheim$28,685Givens Engineering Inc.London$27,285
Some notable Q4 contributions from other areas:

Plantform Corporation Toronto/Guelph $283,357Netw…

Some FedDev fundings from January, February, March

FedDev has disclosed its contributions for the final quarter of the 2012 fiscal year —covering January, February and March of this year. Here are the top 10 projects for the period by dollars committed:

University Of TorontoToronto$20,000,000Alliance Of Manufacturers And Exporters Of CanadaMississauga$18,900,000York UniversityToronto$15,549,290Western Ontario CFDC Association Inc.Brantford$12,000,000Ontario Brain InstituteToronto$10,971,133Cytec Canada Inc.Niagara Falls$10,000,000Dr. Oetker Canada Ltd.Mississauga$10,000,000Ivaco Rolling Mills (2004) L.P.L'Orignal$10,000,000Eastern Ontario CFDC NetworkPeterborough$8,000,000Royal Conservatory Of MusicToronto$7,500,000
The announcement of the $10 million repayable contribution to Dr. Oetker Canada was made on May 24 in London, but the actual funding was made two months earlier. There's often quite a lag between the funding and the announcement.

I don't think we've heard an announcement about the $12 million given to the We…

Fastest growing (and shrinking) Southwestern Ontario communities

Just when I thought I was finished with census numbers...

The next batch of data from the 2011 census was released yesterday—populations across the country broken down by age and sex.

I filtered the data for communities in Southwestern Ontario (population of 5,000 or more) to see which were the fastest growing and declining since the last census in 2006. I had to do this manually, so it's possible that someplace got overlooked, but here are some graphs taken from that data, with an emphasis on what Statistics Canada calls working age—the 15 to 64 group.

For these lists, I included communities in Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent, Lambton, London-Middlesex, St. Thomas-Elgin, Stratford-St. Marys-Perth, Huron, Grey, Bruce, Oxford, Norfolk, Haldimand, Brant-Brantford, Waterloo Region, and Guelph-Wellington.

At the top of the list, it's a sweep for Waterloo Region with all four top spots, and Cambridge also making the top 10. Guelph is in the top ten, as are communities in Bruce (Saugeen…

Final census crunch: Immigrants and visible minorities in Southwestern Ontario

One last look at some census numbers for selected Southwestern Ontario regions (selected because—other than Waterloo—they comprised the area I was covering for the Ministry of Research and Innovation's Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE) program), this time looking at immigrants and visible minorities and the concentration of each across these regions.

Much has been written about the vital role of immigrant entrepreneurs—particularly in Silicon Valley (for example, Vivek Wadhwa's "How the Indians Conquered Silicon Valley"). Within Southwestern Ontario, you'll find many regions looking to be more attractive to immigrants as part of an economic development strategy—in Chatham-Kent, for example, where it was mentioned just last week by mayor Randy Hope is his annual state-of-the-municipality-style adddress.

EcDev guru Richard Florida and his enthusiasts have been high profile proponents of the idea that the level of immigrants and visible minorities are either a com…

More census crunching: Income and housing expenses in Southwestern Ontario

A couple of more items from my round of census crunching. The last post discussed age and education, and this time I'll look at income and housing expenses. I'm not sure this has much effect on innovation support programs, but I found it interesting. It also reveals one other dimension in which the City of Waterloo is a clear outlier (along with being off-the-charts in university education and in the presence of residents in their 20s).

The median income for "married-couple families" (which I selected from the many different income categories only because it's one I fall into) shows a ranking that probably doesn't come as much of a surprise, with the large urban areas—or regions including large urban areas—all grouped together at the high end of the range:

But while the order didn't surprise me, there were a couple things I hadn't expected. The first was just how much of an outlier the City of Waterloo is for income. It's not just ahead of the pac…