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Building a life and career in Renfrew County

Home offices, high-tech employers complement quality of life

A person sits at the water's edge with a laptop.
A person sits at the water's edge with a laptop.

Larry Smith’s Renfrew County property offers many things, including a great view, a quiet atmosphere and soaring pine trees. It also affords Mr. Smith the ability to work from home – which may come as a surprise given he’s a professor at the University of Waterloo, located more than 400 kilometres away.

Mr. Smith is a lifelong resident of the region and an expert in economic development and entrepreneurship. He recently made the case for Renfrew County as a viable place to live, work and do business in his keynote speech at the Renfrew County Economic Development Summit in Eganville.

“It used to be important to be near your customer,” says Mr. Smith. “Now, if you’re running any kind of decent venture your customers are everywhere. And you couldn’t possibly be near them all.”

With high-speed internet available throughout Renfrew County, he believes it’s a viable and – for some – better option than big cities such as Toronto.

“It’s an extraordinary place to live on the pure quality of life issues,” says Smith. “I can hike, I can camp, I can fish. You name it, I can do it.”

With Ottawa just next door, Renfrew County residents easily enjoy the amenities of a major urban centre, such as world-class museums and major league sports, without the traffic congestion, high real estate costs and overly dense housing developments.
“I can have a house with trees, overlooking a beautiful view that in the city of Toronto would cost $5 million,” he says.

As part of his professional work at the University of Waterloo, Mr. Smith advises students to look for more than a career after graduation. He says areas such as Renfrew County can offer both job opportunities and a high quality of life.

Historically a logging region, it has since developed to include an array of manufacturing businesses, including Arnprior Aerospace. The firm designs, fabricates, assembles and integrates components for global commercial aircraft manufacturers and has a 165,000-square-foot facility in Renfrew County.

In August 2016, Arnprior Aerospace won two major contracts from Boeing to manufacture parts for its new 777X line of aircraft. The region hasn’t forgotten its roots, however, with many lumber mills and wood-based manufacturers expanding.

Lavern Heideman & Sons Ltd. announced in November 2016 that it is investing $16.9 million to update its facility. The expansion is expected to bring 18 new jobs to the region.

It’s growth like this that leads Mr. Smith to believe Renfrew County holds potential for new businesses.

To him, the ability to do business – no matter what field you’re in – all while being immersed in nature adds up to an ideal lifestyle. While he admits it’s not for everyone, Mr. Smith argues that it all comes down to thinking about what you want in life.

“A little box surrounded by other people in other little boxes? Or a house with a big garage where you can have a workshop or a giant garden or whatever is your heart’s content?”