Podcast: Ottawa in a pandemic economy, hope for convention facilities, chasing ‘climate unicorns’

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. 

CURRAN: A big week for OBJ, the Ottawa Board of Trade and Welch LLP as we launched our annual Business Growth Survey on Thursday. Peter, can you tell us about the project and its place in the business community?

KOVESSY: OBJ held a virtual event to celebrate the launch of the survey, which included insights from local economists, business leaders and investors. Something we heard repeatedly both in the survey and at the event is that companies in Ottawa can almost be divided into two categories: Those continuing to do OK, and those that are still struggling. Some suggest this divide will only deepen further as the economy recovers.

CURRAN: Dave, there was a recent rule change allowing meeting and convention facilities to host more people inside their buildings. Tell us about the impact of that decision. 

SALI: Last week the decision was made to allow 50 people per meeting room inside convention centres, as opposed to the previous 50 per building. I was speaking with the Shaw Centre, which was hard hit by COVID-19 just as they were expecting a banner year. So this comes as welcome news. They have received some new inquiries for this fall because of this change. The team is also hoping that once students return to school, people will refocus on business and start rebooking their meetings and conventions here in Ottawa either in 2020 or in 2021. However, it will be some time until the international community returns, and a lot of those plans will remain uncertain until a vaccine is developed. 

CURRAN: Dave, you also caught up with a local company that is using electricity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. What’s happening over at Planetary Hydrogen?

SALI: The team is hoping to corner the hydrogen market with its latest idea of speeding up the existing natural process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by using electric currents in the ocean. While it can be a complicated process, it is a very lucrative market, with growing interest in cleantech and environmental issues. The system has potential as a green energy alternative in cases where electric power isn’t feasible. Looking at jet aircrafts or transport ships, for example, hydrogen could be an effective substitute for petroleum. 

CURRAN: Peter, can you give us a sense of what’s coming up at OBJ?

KOVESSY: We are going to be releasing more key results from the Welch LLP Business Growth Survey, which people can see on obj.ca. To see the full report, you can download a copy at www.ottawabusinesssurveyreport.ca.