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Showing posts from July, 2012

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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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…