There was so much to celebrate at Bayview Yards on Tuesday, from milestone anniversaries to a multimillion-dollar funding announcement. You bet there was cake — three of them, in fact.
Invest Ottawa, a non-profit organization that’s been working hard over the past decade to unlock the economic potential of our city, hosted the big event. More than 250 invited guests turned out, which left president and CEO Michael Tremblay humbled by the positive response.
“In a way, while we’re celebrating 10 years of Invest Ottawa, we’re really celebrating 10 years of all of us together, aren’t we?” said Tremblay to a crowd of business leaders, clients, funders, collaborators, sponsors, employees and directors. “I think we all share the passion for what we want our city to be.”
Guests heard how Invest Ottawa has worked with thousands of startups, scale-ups and SMEs to propel innovation and new technologies forward while helping to facilitate more than 14,700 jobs in the region over the past decade. It’s helped domestic companies to raise $1.86 billion in capital while attracting almost $1.5 billion in domestic and foreign direct investment to Ottawa.
Tremblay, who left a VP position with Microsoft in early 2017 to join Invest Ottawa, expressed his gratitude to his predecessors, Jeffrey Dale and Bruce Lazenby, for the work they accomplished before he arrived. “I’m standing on your shoulders.”
He made special mention of former mayor Jim Watson for his support. “He always believed in us, every step of the way.”
Tremblay also spoke with pride about his own team and its ability “to get things done, and done in the right way”. As well, he acknowledged all the clients Invest Ottawa has been “blessed” to work with and support, from small businesses to entrepreneurs to multinational companies. “I think our best days are ahead as a community, and I say that because I know the world needs Ottawa,” said Tremblay.
The gathering also recognized the six-year anniversary of Bayview Yards, which serves as a hub for some of the city’s homegrown technology talent. It was only through leadership and vision that the building exists. It almost got torn down, back when it was a vacant industrial building.
The celebration, scheduled to run three-plus hours, started with an open house that included networking, technology demonstrations and a luncheon. Next, guests sat down in the RBC Foundry event space for the formal part of the program. It included a land acknowledgement, guest speakers, a video presentation and mural unveiling.
Filomena Tassi, minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, announced a contribution of nearly $5.4 million, through the Jobs and Growth fund, to expand the capabilities of Invest Ottawa’s Area X.O. The investment is expected to support 140 new companies, create some 745 jobs and help to fund the commercialization of 40 new products and services. Area X.O provides access to connected and autonomous vehicles, low-speed automated shuttles, advanced robotic and unmanned aerial systems, cybersecurity technologies, and one of the most advanced communications infrastructures.
“Area X.O showcases the best tech of the region to the world,” said Tremblay. “Everywhere we go, we talk about Area X.O. More importantly, we talk about the companies that are showing up and delivering brand-new technology at Area X.O.”
Guest speakers included Nepean MP Chandra Arya, Kanata-Carleton MP Jenna Sudds and Ottawa’s new mayor, Mark Sutcliffe.
Seen in the crowd were Invest Ottawa’s inaugural chair, JeffWesteinde, an entrepreneur in the cleantech and real estate sectors, and Bayview Yards’ inaugural chair Steve West, a global technology leader in health sciences. Invest Ottawa board member and Capital Angel Network board chair Jennifer Francis, co-founder of the SheBoot investment readiness bootcamp designed by women for women, attended. So did Jamie Petten, president and executive director of the Kanata North Business Association. Spotted from the RBC contingent was former Olympic paddler Michael Tayler. He’s now working for the bank as a communications adviser. Algonquin College president Claude Brulé was there. So was lawyer Lorraine Mastersmith. She recently became the firm managing partner for Gowling WLG Canada.
The room heard how Ottawa’s mayor has long and deep connections with Invest Ottawa, including being an adviser for many years to small business owners; he helped to mentor and coach them. Sutcliffe told the room how he’d been asked last spring to join the board of Invest Ottawa as co-chair with the mayor.
“I agreed to do that, and then some circumstances changed.” We all know what happened next: Sutcliffe ended up running in the 2022 mayoral election. His subsequent win resulted in him, as the new mayor, automatically becoming an Invest Ottawa co-chair.
“There was an easy way and there was a hard way, but I took the hard way,” he said good humouredly as the crowd broke into applause. “I’m glad it worked out.”
The mayor spoke about the “enormous contributions” that Invest Ottawa has made to the city’s economic growth and diversification.
“It’s so important because of the challenges we face as a community, going forward, to create more jobs, to spur more entrepreneurship, to build the economy that we need for the future of our community.
“We must continue to be a competitive city with world-class innovation.”
He echoed Tremblay’s feelings of confidence and excitement over what’s to come for Invest Ottawa.
“It’s been a great 10 years, but I believe the best is yet to come,” said Sutcliffe.