Who’s on the radar this year in Eastern Ontario? 2023 Companies to Watch

Editor's Note

These are the first five in our list of 10 Companies to Watch. Stay tuned tomorrow for full list.

From whiskey to radio and from herbs to concrete, there are so many inspiring stories about companies operating and thriving in Eastern Ontario. At EOBJ, we’re lucky to be able to tell these stories and play our part in the continued economic growth of the region.

For our spring edition, we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the companies that are on our radar for 2023. Some are expanding, others are introducing new products, and still others are making advances in sustainability. All have great stories to tell. Thanks to Phil and Catherine Gaudreau for their help in compiling the information.

So, while it’s not scientific in any way and there’s no particular order, we hope you enjoy our picks for companies to watch in Eastern Ontario. One thing I can say, it was hard to narrow the possibilities down to just this list. Here are the first five:

OBJ360 (Sponsored)


When you need to share the load 

When you think of cars, all the physical parts that go into a vehicle might come to mind.

But modern vehicles, especially electric ones, are increasingly computerized. Everything from navigation systems to self-driving and assisted driving technologies rely on a mix of on-board and cloud-based software and hardware. It takes a lot of raw computing power to make it all work. That’s where Kingston-based Distributive has made its mark on Project Arrow, the recently unveiled effort to create a Canadian electric vehicle. The software, called Distributive Compute Protocol (DCP), helps organizations balance the computational workload across all devices. Rather than relying on servers based in the cloud, which may be vulnerable to cybersecurity issues, DCP essentially creates a local cloud, harnessing and redistributing idle computing power. 

The technology has dual applications as far as cars are concerned. The software could help manage the cloud-based computerized resources needed to keep the cars running. However, cars are usually not driven around the clock — they experience downtime. Distributive wants to harness that latent computer power within Project Arrow cars to solve other real-world problems, such as medical research.

Distributive’s tech has proven popular in hospitals seeking to maximize their technology use and manage their scheduling. In fall of 2022, another of Distributive’s products, Osler OR, was used to help several Ontario hospitals optimize surgical scheduling through predictive analytics. The company is working on a version of this software for diagnostic imaging departments.


Welcome to the EV neighbourhood 

It’s not every day the prime minister shows up to announce your new manufacturing plant. But it’s also not every day a $1.5-billion project gets announced in Loyalist Township, population 17,000.Since that July 2022 event, all eyes have been on Umicore, a Belgian materials technology company that is opening a first-of-its-kind plant just west of Kingston. The plant will manufacture cathode active materials and precursor cathode active materials, key components in electric vehicle batteries.

Once in full operation and staffed with up to 1,000 people, the plant will produce enough materials to manufacture one million electric vehicle batteries, supporting up to one-fifth of estimated North American EV production by 2030. Construction on Umicore’s 350-acre site gets underway this year and is expected to conclude in 2025.

In addition to supporting the burgeoning EV market in North America, augmenting other automotive parts investments in Ontario, and creating a critical link between Northern Ontario mining and Southern Ontario automotive manufacturing, the opening of Umicore’s plant will instantly make the company one of the largest private sector employers in the area.

The plant, which is intended to be carbon neutral, received support from both the federal and provincial governments.

AiR Distillerie: 

Cheers to ambitious growth plans 

The creative minds behind Artist in Residence (AiR) Distillerie aren’t satisfied with making perfect drinks, they are intent on creating spaces where partakers can raise a cheer to perfect experiences as well. Since the company’s founding in 2016 in Gatineau, Pierre Mantha and his team have been busy expanding to Hawkesbury and setting the groundwork for expansion into Western Canada, the U.S., Colombia and Mexico. The Hawkesbury project was hit with construction delays, but is expected to open in late summer, with expansion continuing for a few more years over eight phases.

Each of AiR’s facilities is more than a distillery of spirits such as craft gin, vodkas and liqueurs. The company’s Gatineau location includes a boutique as well as a lounge for “spirits enthusiasts” to test products. From this one 40,000-square-foot operation, AiR produces 50 alcohol brands distributed in Quebec. 

The Hawkesbury facility, which will be five times larger, includes plans for a restaurant as part of Mantha’s vision to make it a “destination store, restaurant and lounge” in the years to come. In addition, it will add whiskey to the company’s roster and help AiR get its product onto LCBO store shelves. It will be initially staffed by five employees before growing to 50.

Once the Hawkesbury facility is profitable, Mantha says he will seek investors to help with an international expansion. 

myFM Broadcasting: 

Partnerships help spread the good news 

In 2022, Renfrew-based My Broadcasting Corporation expanded its broadcast area by buying a pair of Welland-based stations from Wellport Broadcasting. My Broadcasting Corporation now owns 20 stations across southern Ontario focused primarily on small and medium-sized markets. 

“Combined with our existing portfolio and significant presence across Ontario, we believe these assets will enhance our ability to deliver high-quality, engaging local content and multi-platform marketing solutions,” company president Jon Pole said of the Welland expansion. “This strategic acquisition demonstrates our continuing commitment to investing in our local media business and more importantly a great local radio team. We look forward to continuing to build on an already amazing operation.”

The company also added four stations in 2021, including Perth-based Lake 88.1 FM, while selling six in southwestern Ontario. As it integrates these new properties, the company’s plans involve a look to the U.S. 

In late 2022, My Broadcasting Corporation co-founders Pole and Andrew Dickson jointly purchased Border International Broadcasting, an American-based company that owns KiSS 102.7, an American station broadcasting to Kingston and the surrounding area. While the station isn’t joining My Broadcasting Corporation’s portfolio, Pole indicated there will be partnership and synergies between it and properties in Napanee and Gananoque.

Wills Transfer:

Making things move on Hwy. 401 and beyond

It has taken a lot for transportation companies to keep on truckin’ through the pandemic. Supply chains have been a mess, it has been hard to hire and retain drivers, and costs to keep trucks on the road — ranging from insurance to gas — have fluctuated considerably.

Despite these challenges, some companies have thrived over the past few years. Smiths Falls-based Wills Transfer remained busy during the pandemic. It sold its intermodal drayage (the use of multiple modes of transportation, such as trucks and trains, to move containers) division to Prescott-based Kriska and began work on a recently completed 155,000-square-foot warehouse in Ingleside, near Cornwall. Wills is on track to expand its brand new facility to 680,000 square feet in the next five years while adding 10 new hires.


The $25-million warehouse is one of six distribution centres operated by the company in Eastern Ontario, which collectively serve the corridor from Toronto through western Quebec. This latest addition already has three customers lined up, including its neighbour, Lactalis Canada, and will help to increase the speed of goods flowing from the plant while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the family-owned company doesn’t appear to be done growing, as it has also purchased land in Carp for further expansion. All this while retaining their Best Managed Gold Standard company honours from Deloitte, which renewed in 2021.

Wills Transfer will mark its 80th anniversary in 2025.

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