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Ottawa employers, musicians collaborate to attract skilled workers to the capital

The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition is partnering with businesses to kickstart the local industry

Jamie Kwong
Jamie Kwong

Many residents cherish Ottawa’s rich music industry as a key part of the city’s cultural fabric. But for a growing number of business leaders, a thriving music sector is also a way to gain a competitive advantage in attracting skilled workers.

As the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines accelerates, workers in tech, professional services, real estate and other industries will be increasingly mobile and looking to live in dynamic and creative cities that offer a high quality of life. And here in Ottawa, business advocates are looking to work with local companies to leverage the city’s music industry as a way of recruiting and retaining skilled workers.

“Top talent wants to work in a city with a thriving arts and culture scene,” says Jamie Kwong, the executive director of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition. “We’re reinforcing our city’s position as a top-tier destination for recent graduates and experienced professionals alike.”

A non-profit organization, OMIC fosters the local music industry by bringing together artists, venues, businesses and more.

To help fuel Ottawa’s broader economic recovery, OMIC recently launched a crowdfunding campaign, Ovation Ottawa, to help kickstart the city’s music community and is working with local companies to develop creative ways of supporting the industry.

“With the support of local businesses, we can develop major talent in the city,” Kwong says. “Together, we can position the arts as a vital and collaborative force in the local economy.”

A big vision

The notion that a thriving arts and cultural landscape supports the wider economy is gaining traction among several leading local companies and business advocates.

Erin Benjamin

Erin Benjamin, president & CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA), joined the board of the Ottawa Board of Trade last fall and works to show local businesses how their success is tied to that of the city’s artists.

“We know that vibrant, creative cities give people a reason to live here, to work here, to play here,” she says. “We want to drive the notion of a creative economy in the city of Ottawa so that we can really encourage, among other things, larger corporations to headquarter here.”

One of the local companies that Benjamin has worked with is software giant Kinaxis.

Through its sponsorship, the Kanata firm launched Kinaxis InConcert in partnership with the CLMA, which featured some 30 concerts live-streamed from stages across Canada.

Along with supporting musicians, the concerts created an opportunity for the company to creatively engage its employees around the world.

“Kinaxis has an international workforce, but there’s a reason that they’re (headquartered) here,” Benjamin explains. “We want to foster that kind of economic development and highlight the enormous potential we have right here in Ottawa.”

Kinaxis InConcert

The concerts were so well-received, in fact, that Kinaxis has decided to build a permanent sound stage for its new Ottawa headquarters that’s slated to open in 2022.

“Company culture and community culture have to mesh,” says Kinaxis president and CEO John Sicard, himself a musician. “We will continue to hire musicians and bring live music to our employees.”

Upping the volume

OMIC’s leaders know that a vibrant city can help companies like Kinaxis attract and retain top talent.

Build a stronger music industry in Ottawa

That’s why the non-profit is partnering with local businesses to crowdfund their next round of micro-grants for artists, empowering musicians to focus on their craft.

With a $25,000 investment from the City of Ottawa, OMIC is determined to match the sum with corporate sponsorship. In return, the organization is offering everything from corporate concerts to branding opportunities.

“As more and more business leaders begin to recognize and leverage the opportunities a thriving local music economy affords, OMIC can lead from a fresh, post-pandemic starting line. We have incredible cultural and artistic assets here in the nation’s capital,” Benjamin says. “OMIC is a connector whose time has come.”

OMIC ovation logo