ccording to Canada's Ministry of Finance, Canada has created over 1.1 million net new jobs since the height of the recession — one of the strongest job creation records in the Group of Seven (G-7). The nation also claims total business tax costs that are now the lowest in the G-7 and 46 percent lower than those in the United States, which may be one reason Canada in 2013 jumped from sixth place to second place in Bloomberg's annual ranking of the most attractive destinations for business.
The Social Progress Index, meanwhile, ranks Canada seventh among 132 nations (first in the G-7), vs. the US in 16th place. And the OECD ranks Canada third on the Better Life Index, which measures well-being across countries.
That's not a bad starting point.
Where it ends, in terms of job creation and economic development, is not necessarily reliant on national policies — though the Canada-European Union Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement is expected to significantly boost trade and investment and create jobs and opportunities for Canadians. Where it ends is up to provincial and regional policies, partnership and practices when it comes to fostering a competitive business climate that welcomes competitive global businesses.
Site Selection awards the Canadian Competitiveness Award each year to the provincial economic development agency that performed the best during the 12-month period ending in March of the current calendar year, as tracked by several calculations based on project data from the magazine's proprietary New Plant Database, which tracks corporate facility location and expansion investments.
This year that award goes to Investissement Québec, which narrowly beats out Ontario for the prize, owing in part to a record year in helping 89 foreign investment projects get off the ground - projects worth C$2 billion and 5,000 new or preserved jobs. That came after helping to attract 65 projects worth $1.1 billion and 4,500 jobs the year before. "These exceptional results are due to the Corporation's unflagging efforts in recent years," said Invest Québec President and CEO Mario Albert in presenting the agency's annual report in June.
While Québec's Liberal government moves to reduce about 30 tax credit programs by 20 percent in order to control spending, it's also cutting the tax rate on small manufacturers by half, from 8 percent to 4 percent. And like Ontario, it's pumping more capital toward its northern regions, where promising resource plays figure to pay off.
The agency maintains 12 offices worldwide, after having just a few a mere five years ago, says Chantal Malo, Invest Québec's senior vice-president, international affairs, sounding very much like a leader at one of the growing companies Invest Québec works to lure:
"We're in a mode of expansion, not reduction," she says of that worldwide presence. While the US market is always a priority, "We are increasing our presence in Asia," she says. "There is a lot of growth and potential there, so it makes sense to have resources there. We are trying to figure out where and how."
That's just part of what Invest Québec's 450 employees do. Tourism is part of its remit, but so is mining: The organization created a Resources Québec subsidiary two years ago to work with mining companies. The organization is also responsible for administering the province's Economic Development Fund (EDF), which authorized or carried out more than 1,500 financing operations totaling $2.1 billion during that same fiscal year. Invest Québec's portfolio under management stood at $3.7 billion as at March 31, 2014. EDF's portfolio stood at $4.4 billion. As Malo puts it, "We are not active in retail, or in real estate or banking … because we already are a bank."
"We are not active in retail, or in real estate or banking … because we already are a bank."- Chantal Malo, Invest Québec's senior vice-president, international affairs
Each year Site Selection also recognizes the Top 10 Canadian Economic Development Groups representing regions or municipalities, as well as Honorable Mention groups. For this honor, in addition to tallies and per-capita calculations based on available New Plant Database information, we also paid close attention to such subjective but tangible factors as regional partnership, proactive programming and legislation and quality data and Web resources.
Town of Ajax (Ontario)
Brian Skinner, Chief Administration Officer
The Town of Ajax, with a population of 110,000, has welcomed recent facility investments totaling more than $72 million and creating 1,210 jobs from such companies as auto parts maker Endras (a $6-million, 80-employee expansion), Safran Messier-Dowty (an 85-job expansion) and stretch-film maker Malpak, among others. After completing a rigorous evaluation of the Town's capacity to sustain business development, Ajax in 2012 became the first Canadian community to earn the CompetitiveReady Seal, created by a team of site selection experts operating as the CR Group. Over 175 factors were audited, falling into 10 categories. Ajax earned its highest scores in physical infrastructure, organizational effectiveness, sustainable practices, real estate, and business climate.
Recently implemented programs include PriorityProperty (a site certification program) and PriorityPath, a program to facilitate investment and expansion projects. Meanwhile, two downtown mixed-use redevelopment projects totaling nearly half a billion dollars in investment are moving forward, as is a district energy plan.
"Ajax is a well-located community along Highway 401 and in close proximity to the Toronto market," noted Donald Paslowski, senior consultant with Cleveland-based Austin Consulting. "This has allowed the town of Ajax to capitalize on securing a highly skilled workforce that is looking to work and live in the same area."
Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association
Neil Shelly, Executive Director
Alberta's Industrial Heartland is Canada's largest hydrocarbon processing region and one of the world's most attractive locations for oil and gas (including oil sands-related upgrading and manufacturing), petrochemical and chemical investment. Part of Greater Edmonton and home to 30 major companies already, the area includes portions of five municipalities: The City of Fort Saskatchewan, the counties of Strathcona, Sturgeon and Lamont, and the City of Edmonton.Kinder Morgan, Air Products, Canexus, Graymont and Keyera are among the industrial investors active in the region. In June, the municipal partners of the Association declared their support for the Canadian government's decision to accept the recommendation from the National Energy Board to approve Enbridge's Northern Gateway project, subject to 209 conditions.
"Production from Alberta's oil sands is expected to reach over 5 million barrels a day by 2030, up from 1.8 million barrels per day in 2012," said Wayne Woldanski, Chair of Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association. "Given our growing resource base and the need to access new markets, an export pipeline like Northern Gateway will provide one means for transporting our resources to new customers."
The twin pipeline will begin in Strathcona County's portion of Alberta's Industrial Heartland, near Bruderheim, Alberta and run to Kitimat, BC. According to Enbridge, the total estimated project cost is $6.5 billion. Enbridge is targeting project completion by late 2018.
Canada's Technology Triangle (Ontario)
John G. Jung, CEO
A perennial leader in regional economic development practices and performance, CTT continues to show the way with a balance of expansion and attraction cultivation, including the "TEAM Waterloo Region" business development approach to attracting FDI, which has included recent missions to Brazil, China, India, Germany and the Netherlands. In a March 2014 column, John Jung noted a recent study by Amer and Associates that showed a small sample of 12 foreign-owned firms in the Waterloo Region can provide an economic impact of $300 million annually in direct, indirect and induced benefits. "There are well over 300 foreign firms now in the Waterloo Region and growing," he wrote.
Meanwhile, homegrown companies such as Desire2Learn, Clearpath Robotics and others continue to thrive, and startups continue to pop up aided by the area's respected Communitech Hub program in Kitchener, which last fall became part of the exclusive seven-location Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network. Recent project investments in the region have come from such companies as Aeryon Labs in Waterloo, Fromagerie St-Albert and COM DEV International in Cambridge, and North American Stamping Group in Woodstock.
City of Charlottetown (PEI)
Ron Atkinson, Economic Development Officer, City of Charlottetown
Among the companies who find the capital of Prince Edward Island as competitive as it is charming is global IT services and BPO firm CGI, which in January 2014 announced it plans to create up to 300 positions within three years at its 80-employee Stratford location, with help from the Government of PEI. "Prince Edward Island has proven to be a great place to do business for CGI," said Jay MacIsaac, senior vice president at CGI Inc.
Invesco, PEI Brewing, Charlottetown Metal Products and Canada's Island Garden are among the firms investing in Charlottetown. Ron Atkinson says biotech, financial services and IT are the key growth areas in the city, thanks to the best corporate services cost scenario in Canada, according to the most recent KPMG Competitive Alternatives report. "We typically rank very well in comparative business costs," says Atkinson, while also realizing the benefits accruing from being PEI's capital city. From 2005 to 2012, according to the Conference Board of Canada, Charlottetown saw the creation of 4,000 jobs, and saw a steady rise in GDP each one of those years, even during the recession.
"There are well over 300 foreign firms now in the Waterloo Region and growing."- John Jung, CEO, CTT
The city is a university town as well, home to the University of PEI and Holland College, and has seen what Atkinson calls "unprecedented downtown commercial development" and an "explosion" of arts and culture, thanks in part to its partnership with the Charlottetown Area Development Corp. The latest trend, aided by Canada's new immigrant-friendly policies, is immigration, with a lot of newcomers from China and Iran, among other locations. "We wouldn't have foreseen 10 years ago the changing face of our city," says Atkinson. "It's terrific to see," he says, allaying concerns about an aging demographic with an influx of new people and talent.
City of Hamilton Economic Development (Ontario)
Neil Everson, Director of Economic Development & Real Estate Division
"The time period of April 2013 to March 2014 represented another "Billion Dollar" year for Hamilton," says the city's economic development team. "The ICI sectors made up approximately half of all building permits issued with industrial and commercial coming in at approximately $397 million." New business and expansions from April to March saw just over 2 million sq. ft. of space occupied, and 1,145 jobs created in Hamilton, which doesn't account for the approximately 1,000 construction jobs created by major projects in the city.
Hamilton's One-Stop for business service provides the timelines, application costs, planning processes, resources and key contacts to move business forward faster and more efficiently. In 2013 alone the One-Stop managed 19,883 contacts (walk-ins, phone calls and email communication), issued 865 sign permits, conducted 232 zoning verifications, facilitated more than 465 business applications, issued the majority of the 4,730 new and renewal licenses and directly created more than 227 new jobs in Hamilton.
Investing firms include Agrico Canada, ArcelorMittal Dofasco, galvanizer AZZ, Hawk Ridge Homes, S&P Data, Triple M Metal, TSL Aerospace and Toshiba. The area also has seen considerable investment via corporate acquisitions. Programmatic improvements have included an award-winning new "Hamilton Site Selector" mobile application, and the creation of the Global Hamilton Office to better attract and support economic class immigrants, immigrant entrepreneurs and international students.
The Real Estate Investment Network of Canada has ranked Hamilton as the top location in which to invest in Ontario for the second straight year. And the city has received two Brownie Awards from the Canadian Urban Institute for brownfield redevelopment achievements, including a project at the CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory.
Dominique Anglade, President and CEO
For the examined period covered by Site Selection between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, Montréal International attracted more than $774 million in private-sector facility investments supporting the creation of 2,722 new jobs. The agency is quick to point out that 21 of the 41 projects it participated in cannot be disclosed due to confidentiality agreements.
For the calendar year 2013, MI attracted $1.28 billion in FDI to the Montréal metropolitan region's 83 municipalities and 3.8 million people through 39 projects — a yearly record since its inception in 1996. Eighty-three percent of these investments come from Europe, with the United States and Asia accounting for the remaining 15 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The ICT sector accounts for almost two-thirds of all the investments, followed by life sciences and health (12 percent), agri-food (11 percent) and aerospace (4 percent).
MI already was targeting those clusters, and in 2013 added a new sectoral focus in logistics and transportation. And while these rankings are focused on corporate investment, it's worth noting that MI is among the few investment promotion agencies in the world that have a support program specifically designed to help non-governmental international organizations set up their operations in its service area, further adding to the area's cachet as a business destination. In 2013, MI played a strategic role in the expansion of Airports Council International (ACI) in Montréal, which represents more than 1,861 airports in 177 countries. Sixty-two international organizations are currently established in Montréal, which makes it the most "international" city in Canada.
Carl Viel, CEO
The Québec City area, with a population just over 1.1 million, saw total FDI of more than $670 million in calendar year 2013 alone, and foreign subsidiaries in the region now number nearly 200. Last year Québec International helped seven projects totaling $115 million in investment and generating or maintaining 550 jobs come to fruition, including projects from Thalès, Atrium Innovations, Ubisoft, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Orange Group affiliate Asentri. agency's team currently has a portfolio of 28 high-potential projects in the pipeline evaluated at $280 million in potential investment.
Québec International recently has led prospection and promotion missions to Charleston, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York City, Paris, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. It also participated in a mission to China. During these missions, meetings were held with 135 companies and potential investors. The team also hosted 26 visits by foreign delegations and investors, 18 of them from companies.
Québec International also has launched a pilot project for individuals interesting in starting a business in the Québec City metropolitan region. In 2013, the Québec International team assisted 41 international entrepreneurs, five of whom launched a business in Québec City in the course of the year. These start-ups generated $1.1 million in investments in 2013. KPMG's Competitive Alternatives 2014 report says the Québec City region ranks No. 1 worldwide among urban areas with 500,000 to 2 million inhabitants. Overall, business location costs are 9.3 percent lower in Québec City relative to the US average.
Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership (Ontario)
George Mallay, General Manager
The Sarnia-Lambton's approach to partnership was on full display earlier this summer when George Mallay's team welcomed a delegation from fellow Top Canadian Group Alberta's Industrial Heartland - from a region of Canada that could formerly be called a bitter rival for energy sector investment. Now, while they still compete for projects, they work together in encouraging more value-added energy production from Canada's significant resources.
The Partnership's resources were on display in attracting corporate facility from companies including Atelka (a 300-job contact center), Bluewater Biochemicals, Ubiquity Solar, BioAmber and Woodland Biofuels. The creative industries are a burgeoning sector in the area as well, helping the Partnership attract funding this summer from Employment Ontario for a study to identify promising opportunities in the sector.
Among the arrows in Sarnia-Lambton's quiver are its institutions of higher education. Lambton College just received federal funding for development and testing of nano-engineered materials for next-generation batteries in partnership with business. And Western University's Research Parks were just ranked 22nd in the world by Swedish research company UBI Index in its Global Top 25 University Business Incubators 2014. The Western-Sarnia-Lambton Research Park was established in 2003 as a joint initiative of the County of Lambton, the City of Sarnia, and Western University. Located adjacent to Lambton College, the park is home to the Bowman Centre, Canada's largest clean-tech incubator, focused on large scale industrial biotechnology.
Renato Discenza, President and CEO
The Competitive Alternatives 2014 report from KPMG that focused specifically on taxation ranked Toronto first overall among the 51 major international cities studied. The ranking affirms the City of Toronto's property tax policy to support and enhance Toronto's business climate. Meanwhile, the City's Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology business incentive program continues to help businesses reduce costs.
But the bigger prize may have been Toronto being named the 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year by the Intelligent Community Forum, which recognizes global leaders in creating wealth and jobs by seizing the opportunities enabled by ICT infrastructure and innovation. There's no better example of why than Cisco's March 2014 announcement that Toronto has become a location for one of four global Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation (IoE) centers — a one-of-kind facility for Toronto and a unique destination for innovation in North America, located at Cisco's Canadian Headquarters at RBC WaterPark Place. It's part of a 1,700-job Ontario commitment (backed by $220 million in provincial support) that the company reaffirmed this summer even as it announced worldwide layoffs of 6,000.
The Invest Toronto team facilitated 23 new investments in the Greater Toronto Area in calendar year 2013 alone. More promising still: It engaged with 179 new FDI opportunities from 23 countries. Technology, life sciences and financial services continue to be the top sectors.
Other projects landing in Toronto include investments from Cologix, Fiera Foods, NutraLab Canada, eBay and Samco Machinery. Meanwhile Greater Toronto continues to reap the benefit of strong economic development efforts in such communities as Mississauga, Brampton and Ajax.
WindsorEssex Economic Development Corp. (Ontario)
Sandra Pupatello, CEO
It never hurts when your local EDO is headed by your province's former minister of trade and economic development, a position held for several years by Sandra Pupatello. It also never hurts when your region's attractiveness is reiterated by investments from companies such as Chrysler, Sysco, Hiram Walker and Westport Innovations in Windsor; Saturn Tool and Die in Tecumseh; PAX-ALL in LaSalle; CEN Biotech and Thomas Canning in Lakeshore; and medical device firm Dynament in Amhertsburg. They join companies such as Suntrition, CS Wind and Greenshield Canada that have voted with their feet in the WindsorEssex region.
"The work of economic development has drastically changed since the recession," said Pupatello at the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corp.'s annual meeting this summer. "Therefore, we all have to be champions for our region, and how we treat our businesses really matters … Our best differentiator is being the most business-friendly community. We can either talk down the economy or talk up our region … that's our ticket."
"We have been searching for a location to grow our operations," said Steve Livneh, president and CEO of Dynament Corp., last October. "We have focused on Amherstburg, Ontario, for being the ideal location for our industry, due to its vicinity to the Canada-USA border, reasonable tax base, offering fair cost of living and for being an exemplary safe and friendly community."
We are optimistic about our move to LaSalle," said Juvenal Alvarez, President of PAX-ALL, in making his announcement, "because this location offers much greater access to the U.S. border, and we are excited to be a part of the growing life sciences sector in the Windsor-Essex region."