Upcoming business event aims to entice investors to Ottawa, ‘bring some swagger’

Street-level image of the Constitution Square building
Ottawa is Open for Business will be hosted in the newly-renovated lobby of Constitution Square on May 17.

After three years of tumult, local business leaders want to highlight everything Ottawa has to offer and put the city back on the map for investors looking for new opportunities. 

On May 17, Constitution Square and Canderel will partner with the Ottawa Board of Trade, Ottawa Tourism, Invest Ottawa and Shepherds of Good Hope to host “Ottawa is Open for Business,” an event celebrating the achievements of the business community. 

“We want to bring the Ottawa downtown business community together, to our building, to celebrate and remind people of all the good things that are happening in Ottawa and of the good things Ottawa has going for it that seem to be getting lost in some of the rhetoric of recent years,” said Shawn Hamilton, vice-president of business development with Canderel.

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Recent events have played into a negative narrative that has turned off some investors, Hamilton added. In the past three years alone, the city has dealt with a rapidly emptying downtown, an internationally broadcast “Freedom Convoy,” an uncertain return-to-work plan for the federal government, and the current federal civil service strike. 

The pandemic has been a game-changer, Hamilton said. Where Ottawa was previously viewed as a stable, dependable market, now it’s an under-rated, under-the-radar region for investors looking for new opportunities, he explained.

Hamilton said it’s time to “bring some swagger” back to a community that’s been down on itself lately. “There’s been a lot of news related to Ottawa that hasn’t really been that positive,” he said. “It’s just a good time to remind people that Ottawa … is an extremely attractive, accessible city and a city where you can grow and prosper in your career or as a family.”

According to Hamilton, while new investors have been hesitant to jump in, Ottawa’s advantages have kept existing investors in the city. “We have not seen an abandonment and that’s really important to say,” he said.

Post-secondary institutions like the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Algonquin College provide a steady stream of intellectual talent into the capital that Hamilton said should be attractive to corporations. 

According to Hamilton, opportunities abound for potential investors across industries, from small start-ups to major real estate developers. 

“We’ve seen a natural hesitance to jump in with both feet,” said Hamilton. “Markets like Montreal and Toronto certainly take a front seat compared to Ottawa. Given our size, Ottawa should not be satisfied being a secondary market for investment. We should be, by every metric, a top-tier market by virtue of our size and our capabilities.”

Michael Tremblay, president and CEO of Invest Ottawa which is also involved in the event, said Ottawa’s business leaders have good reason to be optimistic about the future.

“The city is in reasonably good shape when it comes to organizations around the world looking at landing in the city,” he said. “We land probably between eight and 12 new business in the region each year. There’s always headwinds and the future is a bit uncertain, but the city is in a good position to continue to grow.”

The Ottawa is Open for Business event will be the first gathering in the newly renovated lobby of the Constitution Square building on Albert Street. The $9-million project aims to reposition the space as an accessible, multi-use communal gathering spot.

The event takes place Wednesday, May 17 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. and includes networking as well as keynote presentations from Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi and MPP Lisa MacLeod. 

More information can be found on the Ottawa Board of Trade website

All proceeds will be donated to the Shepherds of Good Hope.

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