Opinion: Carp Road: Eastern Ontario’s next clean-tech centre

The Carp Road Corridor is Ottawa’s largest industrial park with more than 250 businesses employing 2,000 people in the city’s west end.

By Marc McArthur

Traditionally known as a light industrial hub, Carp Road is now attracting clean-tech companies to the rural road on Ottawa’s outskirts.

How does such an area begin tapping into a sector that is currently worth more than $1 trillion globally? The steps are logical, strategic and based on the corridor’s core characteristics.

One of the first and most important steps is understanding which clean-tech areas are relevant to the region. That includes questioning what is unique or prevalent about the physical, economic, political or social realities in the region. This sheds light on promising areas worth building on. The alternate, and often favoured, strategy of scanning headlines for the latest buzzwords or following funding announcements without context almost certainly leads to disappointment.

I identified – through recent discussions with board members from the local business improvement area, a review of the existing business activity in the corridor and interviews with business owners – three good opportunities for growing clean-tech business activity in the corridor.

The first is in the business of waste management. BFI Canada, Waste Management and R.W. Tomlinson all operate  waste management facilities in the corridor. This gives the area a higher-than-usual (and not easily replicated) concentration of expertise, infrastructure and economic activity in this sector.

These same ingredients – along with easy access to two 400-series highways – led to the organic growth of businesses specializing in on-road freight transportation and commercial vehicle traffic. This is relatively unique to Carp and lends itself to transportation industry opportunities within the clean-tech sector, such as trip logistics and enhanced engine performance. Waste Management demonstrated leadership in this area by expanding its fleet to include trucks powered by natural gas.

Another notable clean-tech feature of the corridor is the potential for decentralized water treatment solutions for area residents and businesses. This is different from the previous two local features as it taps into an infrastructure opportunity, rather than commercial activity.

The West Capital Airpark (formerly the Carp Airport) is building a private wastewater management and treatment system to support its development.  With decentralized wastewater service provider BluMetric located in the corridor and other Ottawa-area firms such as Clearford Industries and Bishop Water Technologies in the region, the Carp Road area has the land base and technical expertise to exploit this clean-tech opportunity.

With these local features identified, the next steps are figuring out what to do with them. To what degree will the businesses and landowners in the corridor purchase or supply innovative clean-tech solutions in these three areas? Will they appeal directly to clean-tech companies, leverage assets within the federal government or work more closely with the research community in the city?

These questions remain unanswered. But what’s clear is that the corridor has the potential to be a serious regional and national clean-tech contender.

Marc McArthur is president of Crosstaff Consulting Inc. He can be reached at mmcarthur@crosstaffsolutions.com.