Rising business confidence in Ottawa to spark hiring, survey suggests

In a sign of growing confidence in the local economy, hundreds of Ottawa business owners and managers say they plan to hire new employees over the next 12 months, according to a new report.

The 2017 Ottawa Business Growth Survey also found a majority of respondents said their revenues increased last year and will climb even higher in the months ahead.

Business Confidence Index

The OBGS – an annual joint project between Abacus Data, Welch LLP, OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce – is based on about 1,000 responses by local businesspeople to an online survey.

“There’s an overall sense that things are improving.”

For the second straight year, respondents say they’re feeling increasingly optimistic about the future. The business confidence index – a composite number based on the responses to several key questions – rose to 125 this spring, up from 124 a year earlier and 115 in 2015.

“It reflects a better mood in the business community,” said David Coletto, the CEO of Ottawa-based public opinion research firm Abacus Data. “There’s an overall sense that things are improving.”

The outlook varies from sector to sector, with the largest change recorded in the construction sector. That industry is feeling particularly confident about the future as the homebuilding industry gains momentum and several large projects prepare to break ground, including the second phase of Ottawa’s light-rail line and the 10-year renovation of Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

“The light rail (expansion will) be good for our members  … and when you take a look at the City of Ottawa budget for 2017 and moving forward to 2018 and 2019, those numbers are quite positive as well,” said Dale Harley, an adviser to the National Capital Heavy Construction Association.

While confidence declined among local tech companies, the sector still remains the most bullish of the five surveyed industries.

Employee recruitment

“Ottawa’s business ecosystem continues to grow at an unprecedented pace,” said Invest Ottawa CEO Michael Tremblay. “Homegrown companies such as BlackBerry, You.i TV, Ross Video, Klipfolio and Shopify will collectively hire thousands of people within the next few years.”

Watson’s popularity climbs

With the next municipal election slightly more than a year away, the survey also found growing support for Mayor Jim Watson and city council. Some 59 per cent of respondents say they approve of the job done by Mr. Watson, who’s said he plans to run for re-election in 2018.

Respondents are also feeling positive about Ottawa’s residential real estate market. In one of the largest shifts recorded in this year’s survey, 61 per cent of respondents said they expected home prices to rise over the next 12 months. That’s up from 44 per cent in 2016.

– With files from Courtney Edgar and David Sali

Key findings

  • Overall business confidence remained relatively high in 2017. While the overall index remained consistent, confidence from within the construction industry jumped 15 points, likely buoyed by building efforts leading up to Canada 150.
  • Business owners were more likely this year than in 2017 to think that real estate prices in Ottawa will rise over the next 12 months.
  • Market disrupters and cyber-security were the top issues keeping business owners up at night.
  • Although finding a skilled workforce was still near the top of the list, attracting new customers replaced it as the No. 1 concern for business owners over the coming five years.
  • Ottawa’s reputation as an innovation hub is growing. Business owners were more likely to think of Ottawa as more innovative than other cities its size in 2017.