Podcast: A fresh Forty Under 40 class, Bryden's new waste-to-energy tech, Eastern Ontario tourism investments

Editor's Note

Behind the Headlines is sponsored by Nelligan Law.

In this Behind the Headlines podcast episode, OBJ publisher Michael Curran speaks with OBJ editors David Sali and Peter Kovessy about some of the week’s biggest local business stories.

This is an edited transcript of the panel discussion. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify.

PK: OBJ and the Ottawa Board of Trade just released the list of this year’s Forty Under 40 recipients. It’s one of the most sought-after awards for the region’s young business leaders. Dave, when you look at this year’s recipients, what does it say to you about the state of Ottawa's economy?

DS: There’s an old saying that diversity is strength. And that’s reflected in this year’s list. You’ve got a lot of sectors covered off. One might assume that Ottawa’s Forty Under 40 would be dominated by individuals from the city’s tech sector. And there are recipients from that industry – two recipients work at Shopify and the founders of e-commerce company Noibu as well as health-tech firm Neurovine also made this year’s list. But you also have the president of Roxborough Bus Lines, a senior executive from CHEO, the operations manager of PCL Construction. You’ve got all these different sectors represented, which bodes really well for Ottawa. We’ve got great bench strength in tech, but also in other industries.

MC: The person at the centre of our next story is familiar with many of our viewers and listeners. Rod Bryden was known for his work at WorldHeart, the Ottawa Senators as well as a company called Plasco, which built a waste-to-energy demonstration plant in Ottawa more than a decade ago. But we’re not talking about Plasco. We’re talking about a (rebranded) company called Omni Technologies, and it recently closed a $35-million deal that could see its waste-conversion system installed in California. Dave, tell us more about this story.

DS: When I spoke to Rod late last year, he said he really wanted to put the history of Plasco behind him. They feel like they’ve perfected this technology that converts municipal garbage into energy using high-temperature plasma gas. They’ve signed their first customer and Bryden is really hoping to get the momentum going to generate revenue from this technology, which has been 15 years in the making.

MC: Our final story comes from OBJ contributor Tom Van Dusen and is part of our ongoing Regional coverage of the Eastern Ontario business community. An entrepreneur is working to turn a nearly 200-year-old former windmill tower on the shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway into a symbol of cutting-edge economic development. The plan is to restore the stone buildings and regenerate the shoreline using green design and construction techniques and create a hub for social and environmental innovation. This isn’t just a lot of talk. More than $2 million has already been spent acquiring and repairing the property and shoring up the tower. Peter, this story is centred in the town of Maitland, a village five kilometres east of Brockville. But there are similar storylines playing out across the region. Help us connect the dots.

PK: We’re seeing several examples of investors from outside the region redevelop or reinvigorate niche or speciality tourist attractions in smaller communities across Eastern Ontario. When you talk to economic development officials in the region, this opportunity is absolutely on their radar and something many are looking to promote, whether it’s outdoor adventure tourism and recreation along the Ottawa River in Renfrew County or giving new life to historic communities. We’re talking about a recent story centred on Maitland, but just a couple of months ago, we reported on two sisters – one from Vancouver, one from Montreal  – who bought a former church in Iroquois in South Dundas to turn it into a speciality hospitality venue. On a high level, you can see the opportunities for investors: This is a region situated in easy driving distance from the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal, and there’s growing demand among travellers for new types of tourism experiences.