Prospectus: Taking a 'half-full' perspective on November's tough business news

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In each edition of the OBJ newsmagazine, publisher Michael Curran shares his prospectus on the Ottawa economy.

I try to be a glass-half-full-type person.

That approach extends to OBJ and my perspective on the local economy. That doesn’t mean I ignore the very real barriers to growth in Ottawa or the setbacks that happen on a regular basis.

November, for example, was a bad month on the face of it.

Ottawa’s largest advertising agency, McMillan, which had built an enviable client list outside of Canada, laid off most of its talented roster of employees in a bid to survive insolvency.

An even bigger defeat came from local cannabis powerhouse Canopy Growth, which posted an eye-popping $300-million loss in its latest quarter.

And certainly the biggest story of November was the ongoing reliability issues with Ottawa’s Confederation LRT line, the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history.

You could reasonably conclude the sky is falling.

But isn’t it often true that nothing is really as bad (or good) as the headlines suggest? Isn’t there always another side to the story?

Let’s revisit those stories.

McMillan employees were unceremoniously shown the door, but competitors are rushing to scoop up hard-to-find talent.

Canopy’s bombshell surprised casual industry observers, but experts suggest the losses, made worse by one-time writedowns, will subside as “cannabis 2.0” takes hold and consumer demand climbs. (Don’t forget these tough times are honing the management skills at Canopy Growth as it competes in bigger emerging markets.)

On the LRT front, not to ignore the frustrations of daily users, but do you ever wonder if months from now these glitches of the early days will give way to a train system that, by and large, operates to the same standards of other cities?

Best of the best

On a more upbeat note, OBJ ended November with its annual fall celebration of business success, the Best Ottawa Business awards (a.k.a. the BOBs), produced with our partners at the Board of Trade.

Sit in the room at this awards gala and you walk away with a decidedly more optimistic view of the city and its economy.

The very long list of deserving recipients, whether they are established players (Assent Compliance, You.i TV and Regional Group) or newcomers (GoFor, RVezy and SnapClarity), paint a different picture.

It isn’t picture perfect by any means, but innovation and disruption are creating value and employing a new generation of entrepreneurs.

In this case, it’s not only a glass half full. It might be a champagne flute poured to the brim.

Cheers to all the recipients at the 2019 BOBs.

Deals of the Year

In this month's edition of the OBJ newsmagazine, we take a closer look at the deals that made headlines in the Ottawa business community in 2019.

Print editor Dave Sali details the biggest transactions of the year from corporate stars such as Farm Boy, MindBridge Ai, Kinaxis, Shopify and Group Germain hotels and explains how those deals are set to change the city's business landscape in the years ahead.

In addition, Techopia editor Craig Lord talks with some of the capital's leading tech firms, startups and service providers to get their insights on the state of tech in Ottawa. You'll find all that and much more in the latest issue of OBJ.