Opinion: Jim Donnelly, signing off

It’s hard to know what to write when it’s your last kick at the can, but I’ll give it a try anyhow.

For those of you who haven’t heard – and you probably haven’t, since it’s not exactly front-page news – I’ve decided to call it a career at Ottawa Business Journal.

I’m moving on to local media analytics and measurement firm MediaMiser, as director of content and strategic partnerships (but fear not – for those of you who  enjoy my sometimes incoherent ramblings, I’ll be doing a fair amount of writing and blogging from that neck of the woods as well).

Thus, this edition of OBJ will be my last as editor. The very capable Peter Kovessy will take over on an interim basis for the time being, with a full-time successor to be named in the coming weeks.

It’s been a fantastic ride here at the paper, to say the very least. 

My first story in OBJ – a feature item on white-collar professionals moonlighting as electronic music promoters and DJs – ran way back in 2005, when then-editor Leo Valiquette took a chance on a scruffy, pierced freelance journalist who had just returned from a backpacking trip to India (that would be me).

Since then, I’ve been involved with OBJ and its various sister publications in all sorts of capacities. I’ve been privileged enough to learn a ton about business, and what makes people in business tick.

But it’s over the past three years, as editor-in-chief, that I’ve really gotten to sink my teeth into the intricacies of the business community.

And what a ride it’s been. Just a few months after my appointment in 2008, financial markets were promptly obliterated by the rash of anxiety caused by the U.S. housing crisis. There’s nothing quite as simultaneously exciting and terrifying, other than being an investor, as being a business journalist when the TSX is down 800 points.

Since then, most of our coverage has been framed against a backdrop of recession and recovery. It’s been fascinating to watch, both as a casual observer and professional, Ottawa’s reaction – which can be characterized as a sort of steely reserve – to the sometimes catastrophic events in the wider economy of the last three years (that confidence could also be borne out of the security of widespread federal government employment, but I digress).

It has in many ways given me a fresh perspective on the city I’ve called home for more than a decade. It’s made me realize that Ottawa is much more than a sleepy government town. Far from it – Ottawa’s business community is strong. It is confident.

And Ottawa, as many of us believe, has the tools to be an economic leader in the years to come.

But will the city reach its economic potential? It will take a huge effort on the part of the city’s business community and, not least, the City of Ottawa itself. 

Long regarded by many as a hindrance to business investment rather than a help, City Hall needs to more effectively promote economic development in Ottawa. It needs to make conditions more favourable for a company such as an IBM or a RIM to invest in new facilities here (although certainly, the addition of a sparkling new Convention Centre and, hopefully, a light-rail system definitely won’t hurt).

Not least, it needs to place more importance on Ottawa’s business community as a whole. Though a relatively small voting bloc, City Hall would be wise to wake up and pay attention.

For it’s this group that has helped make Ottawa. And it will be the business community that helps shape Ottawa’s future.

I, for one, will enjoy watching it happen. And with that, I suppose I finally figured out what to write.