Podcast: A new ByWard Market hotel, Ottawa Tourism prepares for 2022, Dairy Distillery's fresh funding

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. 

MC: There’s a historic commercial building on York Street in the ByWard Market that is poised for a major facelift. The five-storey heritage warehouse known as the Major building is the former headquarters of Shopify and is the current home of Kivuto Solutions and architecture firm Linebox Studio. Now a Montreal developer wants to build a 22-storey hotel and apartment complex on the site, preserving the heritage building. Peter, what stands out about this project to you?

PK: One of the first things a lot of people say about this building is that it's the former home of Shopify. As the firm was scaling up, they moved to several different locations in the ByWard Market and really shined a spotlight on the Market as a location for several up-and-coming tech firms. This redevelopment project means the Market is going to lose some of its office space. It comes less than a decade after the Union du Canada building – which at one point was home to companies such as TravelPod – was torn down to make way for the Andaz Hotel. Neighbourhoods are always going to be changing and evolving, but this project and the loss of unique office space in favour of a hotel and apartments does raise questions about the implications for the Market’s commercial tenant mix, makeup and character.

MC: As part of our regular Mayor’s Breakfast speaker series, OBJ and the Ottawa Board of Trade recently invited the head of Ottawa Tourism to discuss his industry’s recovery efforts. Michael Crockatt shared a vision of promoting Ottawa’s bilingual character and mix of rural and urban landscapes in a bid to attract visitors once travel restrictions are lifted. But he also said individual residents and businesses have a role to play in putting Ottawa back on the radar of travellers. Dave, you were listening in. What were the key takeaways for the business community?

DS: He had a message that it’s going to be up to all of us here in the city to sell the capital to our neighbours in Toronto, Montreal, Kingston and other relatively nearby cities and encourage people to start coming for road trips and be an ambassador. And, if you work for a company or belong to an industry association, encourage the head office or the board to bring their convention here when everybody's comfortable with travelling.

MC: Our final story centres on a company we’ve been following closely over the past year. Almonte’s Dairy Distillery makes cream liquors and other spirits from milk permeate – the liquid left over after cream, fat and proteins are removed from whole milk. The company took second spot on OBJ’s 2021 list of fastest-growing companies with revenue growth of more than 2,000 per cent in its first three years and has now landed a $4.8 million investment from a private equity fund focused on Canadian companies in the agriculture and food sector. Peter, what caught the attention of this investor?

PK: There are the traditional business fundamentals – a solid track record, strong revenue base and an efficient production process. But the lead investor behind the deal, Ag Capital Canada, also noted that Dairy Distillery’s business model aligns with the theme of environmental sustainability that has become increasingly popular in the business world. The company is basically transforming an unused byproduct from dairy processing plants into useful consumer products. Investors were also impressed with the company’s pivot to producing hand sanitizer when the pandemic struck, noting it allowed the young firm to diversify its product offerings.