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Renfrew County’s draw for entrepreneurs and investors

Businesses, families relocating to the Ottawa Valley

Lab technician testing samples
Lab technician testing samples

Inside his Renfrew County office, Alastair Baird keeps a database of jobs that companies are looking to fill. Industrial millwright. Engineer. Accountant. Scientist. Editor. Welder. Healthcare specialist. And many more high tech and skilled labour positions.

The head of the county’s economic development department has seen rising interest in recent years among skilled workers and business owners in setting up shop in the Ottawa Valley.

They’re attracted by the healthy supply of well-priced industrial land and buildings, low development charges, a skilled labour force, strong transportation links, proximity to major markets, an unparalleled quality of life and a municipal economic development team that’s dedicated to helping businesses launch, expand and relocate to the Ottawa Valley.

Renfrew County is already home to a diverse economic base of small and medium-sized businesses that includes manufacturing facilities, tourism operators, nuclear science and technology, aerospace and defence industries, among others.
One of those success stories is Beachburg-based Heliconia, a video production firm that makes television programs about adventure travel and the outdoors.

It was nature that first attracted Brendan Mark, Heliconia’s vice-president and partner, to Renfrew County’s Whitewater Region. A former professional kayaker, he quickly developed a passion for the region’s rivers.

“We love the outdoors and we love the access to the outdoors that (the area) gives us,” he says. While Mr. Mark can indulge in his personal passions virtually at his doorstep, his business is decidedly international. Being located in Renfrew County gives him the best of both worlds.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau_ Lianne Ing

This year alone, Heliconia crews are flying to Jordan, the Galapagos Islands and Taiwan, to name but a few destinations. That travel is made possible by Renfrew County’s proximity to the Ottawa International Airport, which is located only slightly more than an hour away, as well as other international airports in Montreal, Toronto and New York State.

“That’s what we do – jump on a plane and travel where we need to go,” says Mr. Mark.

Renfrew County’s transportation links are also one of the keys to success for Pembroke MDF, a manufacturer of medium-density fibreboard – a wood product that’s used in cabinetry, furniture and moulding.

Attracting international attention – and capital – the plant was purchased by Chilean investors in 2005.
Every day, some 45 trucks enter the facility carrying wood products as another 45 trucks – loaded with finished products – pull out, destined for urban centres in Canada and export markets in the U.S.

Many of those trucks traverse the Trans-Canada Highway, which runs the full length of Renfrew County, and provides easy connections to U.S. border crossings at the Thousand Islands Bridge, Prescott, Cornwall and outside Montreal.

As production continues to ramp up, Pembroke MDF’s owners are now looking at possible expansion options.

“It has a bright future,” says Pembroke MDF’s Fito Salman.

To read more stories of entrepreneurship and business success in the Ottawa Valley click here