Within the past several months, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership staff have met with more than 30 companies expressing interest in Ontario. In addition, staff have completed a direct mail campaign to over 2000 automotive firms and communicated with other entrepreneurs and businesses through various social media channels. These firms can be broken into four categories. Most of the firms we have met with want greater market penetration into the North American, Canadian and/or Ontario markets. However, more than 90% have not built up the necessary market share to support a new plant or a significant staff increase for a service based operation. They are trying to understand how they can sell product and are looking for support to complete this task. Others are interested in opportunities related to helping them commercialize new product lines or improve existing ones.
This latter group, which represents about 5%, is interested in accessing knowledge, facilities and funding to help them advance their products. The community’s capacity has greatly improved to help this group. They offer an excellent return if they are successful and particularly if we can get them to commercialize their technology locally. Lambton College is now the largest applied research college in Ontario and has built an extensive applied research group. All projects are completed with an industry partner. In 2016 it ranked 11th on Research Infosource Inc.’s top 50 Research Colleges.
At its international conference in September, the Association of University Research Parks, named The Western Research Park as winner of Outstanding Research Park Award for 2016. Western is the first Ontario park to receive this award. The park hosts Canada’s largest cleantech incubator and is home to Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) and Bowman Center for Sustainable Energy. Lambton College, The Research Park and Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership have all been working collaboratively on building a commercialization hub for process-based industry. The work, recognition and resources being put in place provides us with strong value propositions and tools to engage prospect firms.
Another 4% of firms are either interested in other parts of Ontario, primarily the Greater Toronto/Golden Horseshoe Regions, to access customers and/or larger labour markets with high levels of university graduates.
Finally, 1% are interested in building a plant or establishing an office for a service-based organization. All are looking for incentives, but most are genuinely interested in the long-term viable business case. All are looking at other locations within North America or globally depending upon their product, suppliers and customer base.
Presently, we have a very strong pipeline of investment leads and are confident some of these will close in 2017 as more clarity emerges and policy changes are made which enable Ontario to remain in a competitive position.