Inside Ottawa’s galas, fundraisers and networking events
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January 1, 2018 Vol. 21, NO. 5
Avoiding the Canada 150 hangover
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After 25 years in the consulting business, Robert Tennant and Ted Fobert have had a hand in nearly every major development project in Ottawa. > PAGE 3
After a phenomenal year of sesquicentennial events, what does Ottawa’s tourism industry do next? > PAGES 16-17
A change of space
A new generation of tech firms is moving downtown, causing a fundamental shift in the city’s real estate market, brokers say. > PAGES 4-5
Who’s liable if someone slips and falls at your business? The experts at Nelligan O’Brien Payne explain how to protect yourself this winter. See page 2
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Slips and falls: Tips for protecting yourself – and your business – this winter You’re likely liable if someone hurts themselves at your office or store
nyone who’s lived through an Ottawa winter knows it can get icy. Whether in a store’s parking lot, on the sidewalk or even in the lobby of a building, slips and falls can happen to anyone, anywhere. The consequences can be serious – a concussion or hip fracture is not only painful, but can involve a long recovery period during which one is unable to work. Who’s responsible for compensating an injured person for their lost income and personal care needs? In most cases, it’s the business where the fall takes place that is liable. While the legal risk from slips and falls is real, there’s no need for business owners to shutter their doors until the snow melts. Craig O’Brien, a partner and civil litigation lawyer at Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP, has some simple solutions to keep both businesses and their clients safe throughout winter.
Slip and fall claims can be “financially disastrous” for an uninsured business. Settlements can range anywhere from $15,000 to $2 million. – Craig O’Brien, a partner and civil litigation lawyer at Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP
MAKE SURE YOU’RE COVERED Slip and fall claims can be “financially disastrous” for an uninsured business. Settlements can range anywhere from $15,000 to $2 million. So to start, businesses should have commercial general liability insurance. This type of policy covers bodily injury and property damage stemming from visiting your place of business. You should check regularly to make sure it hasn’t expired or lapsed. However, there’s still a significant cost to businesses that are covered by insurance in terms of time away from work. Ideally, business owners should prevent slips and falls from happening in the first place.
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
KNOW YOUR SNOW REMOVAL CONTRACT
While snow removal companies are a great way to outsource the heavy lifting, O’Brien recommends that business owners or managers still engage with contractors regularly to ensure the job is getting done. Most companies are not contracted to show up to shovel and plow until there are at least five centimetres of snow, meaning businesses remain responsible to clear their own premises if there’s less snow in the forecast. On the flip side, many business managers are surprised to find that, following some late-winter storms, their snow removal company stops showing up altogether. Most contracts stipulate a maximum volume of snow that the contractor will clear in a
PROTECTIVE MEASURE While it might sound counterintuitive, O’Brien also cautions against clearing your neighbour’s snow. In the event that you clear another person’s property and create a hazard, you are actually liable should someone hurt themselves.
season without additional payments. Once a company hits that cap, businesses need to pay those fees or the contractor will stop coming. In the event that a snow removal company is not fulfilling its contract, O’Brien recommends that business owners contact the company both over the phone and via email. The phone call is for initial contact, to ensure the matter is corrected quickly. The written communication ensures there is timestamped evidence that you brought it to the company’s attention. Businesses are also responsible for ensuring snow removal companies are able to complete their job fully. For example, having a sandwich board on display outside can prevent the surrounding area from being cleared, leaving the business – and not the snow removal company – liable should someone slip and fall. Many snow removal contracts also have an inspection clause that requires the firm to check that their client’s property is cleared even when there hasn’t been a fresh snowfall. A good snow removal company will keep careful records of these inspections and make them readily available for their clients upon request.
TAKE PREVENTATIVE STEPS Even with an insurance policy and snow removal contract in place, there are steps every business should take to keep their premises safe. O’Brien recommends the following: • Have a shovel. • Have a mop readily accessible. People often track snow in on their boots; a mat at the doorway and a mop at the ready can help prevent accidents. • Have a well-stocked salt bin. O’Brien points out that many winter salts are only effective to -20 degrees Celsius, so it’s important to be selective in what you buy. • Maintain the premises hourly.
• Keep an hourly maintenance log. Logs should be kept on file for a minimum of two years to cover the statute of limitations on personal injury in Ontario. • Complete incident reports in the event of an accident. Ideally, they should include the date and time of the incident, a statement from the patron involved and the employee who administered care, a description of the conditions, statements from any other employees who witnessed the incident and contact information for any other patrons who would be willing to act as witnesses. These, too, should be kept on file for a minimum of two years. O’Brien also recommends that managers aim to keep contact information for former employees up-todate, so they can call upon them to give statements even after they’ve left the company. Lawsuits may be filed up to two years after the incident occurred. To a business owner or their staff, it may have been just another day at work. To the injured client, it was likely a life-altering and potentially traumatic experience. In instances where the accident is caught on camera, footage should be saved so it can serve as evidence down the road. Careful record keeping is key to business owners looking to guard themselves against liability in these cases. What can Nelligan O’Brien Payne do for you? Find a lawyer or consultant online at nelligan.ca. Craig O’Brien is a partner at the firm and a civil litigation lawyer. Reach him at email@example.com.
PROFILE City planning gurus map path to success For a quarter-century, FoTenn founders Ted Fobert and Robert Tennant have played a key role in shaping the development projects that now define Ottawa BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS firstname.lastname@example.org
Tennant traces his love of urban planning and design back to a childhood spent visiting European cities. His dad had a senior position with Air Canada that allowed the family to travel extensively. His postsecondary education includes a master’s degree in city planning from the University of Toronto.
Fobert credits his interest in urban planning to a high school geography teacher in the Toronto suburb of Thornhill. The teacher loved talking about cities. “I didn’t really understand anything about urban planning or know that there was such a profession, but when I got to university and saw there was a program, that’s what I was drawn to.”
Both men belong to the highly regarded Royal Ottawa Golf Club, and Tennant is even a former club president and club champion. He comes from a long line of distinguished golfers and is an invited member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the world.
If you’ve ever belonged to the Y, you may recognize Fobert from his years of teaching a popular fitness class there. He was also on the board of directors for the YMCA-YWCA National Capital Region.
Tennant’s community involvement has included the Writers’ Trust of Canada, Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa and being on the boards of the National Capital Commission and the National Arts Centre’s new building committee.
On the public sector side, FoTenn’s work includes its extensive community planning for the Inuit and First Nations living in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and northern Quebec. FoTenn has also expanded geographically, with offices in Kingston and Toronto. In 2000, it bought and moved into its 223 McLeod St. building, which is full of beautiful artwork belonging to Tennant and Fobert (Tennant is an avid art collector).
Fobert and Tennant are in the process of retiring from FoTenn and passing the business along to its directors, Brian Casagrande, Michael Stott, Miguel Tremblay and Margo Watson. They’re not riding off into the sunset, though. The two are also partners in another venture, a tour boat business in the Thousand Islands called Rockport Cruises. FoTenn’s greatest accomplishment remains its biggest challenge: helping cities move forward by getting projects approved in the face of community resistance. Large supermarkets and taller buildings can create mobs of angry neighbours, leading to wild accusations, name-calling and even – on one occasion – the slashing of car tires. “Planners are change agents,”
Fobert says. “That’s our primary role. We accept a vision that has been stated by a municipality, that becomes in the public interest. It’s not the 20 to 30 people complaining at public meetings who are in the public interest.” The intensification of Westboro’s Richmond Road “is a really good example of the evolution of a street that resulted in a battle against almost every particular development along there,” he adds. “People don’t remember how depressed Richmond Road was. There were no highrises, no life on the street. I can remember meetings where people would say, ‘Where am I going to park if you put all this development on Richmond Road?’ Well, guess what – that’s a healthy sign if you’re looking for parking. Continued on page 9
OVERCOMING RESISTANCE The company founders were recently fêted at a large reception attended by the likes of Mayor Jim Watson, Coun. Jan Harder, chair of the city’s planning committee, and Russ Mills, former chair of the National Capital Commission.
FoTenn founders Robert Tennant (left) and Ted Fobert. PHOTO BY BRANDON LIND
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
hey say timing is everything. Assuming that old adage were true, the best thing to have done during the economic storm of the early 1990s was to just sit tight and wait it out. Or not. Ted Fobert chose then to leave his comfy management-level position with the City of Ottawa. Likewise, friend and fellow urban planner Robert Tennant was doing well working for the private sector when he also made his planned exit. Together, they started an urban planning consultancy firm called FoTenn, renting office space out of a small building that has since been replaced by a Shoppers Drug Mart at the corner of Bank and Sunnyside. “Our first couple of years in the business were pretty tough,” acknowledges Fobert, 65, while speaking alongside Tennant, 68, in the boardroom of Fotenn Planning + Design. “We had pretty limited opportunities. The governments weren’t spending money. The private sector was quiet. The city didn’t really bounce back until ’94 or ’95.” He wasn’t yet regretting his career move but “I think my wife was,” he jokes (kind of). From those humble beginnings in early 1992, FoTenn has grown to become the top firm of its kind in the region and one of the largest in the province. Its award-winning expertise includes site planning, land usage, policy development, urban design and landscape architecture. Today, the company has a staff of more than 30 people and is involved in almost every new development that shapes our city, from the transformation of Richmond Road and Lansdowne Park to the expansion of Barrhaven South and the planned redevelopment of LeBreton Flats. For developers, FoTenn is the go-to firm for steering complex urban projects through the city’s approval process and Ontario Municipal Board hearings. “When we started, we had no idea what size we might be,” says Tennant while recalling how the company managed to organically grow and diversify as more and more clients hired it and new business ideas and opportunities proved successful. “I’m quite proud of what we were able to do.”
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ROBERT TENNANT AND TED FOBERT
Tech migration driving ‘sea change’ in downtown market Changing commercial landscape presents both challenges and opportunities for owners of lower-tier properties looking to entice new style of tenants
Constitution Square is one of the city’s top Class-A office complexes. FILE PHOTO
BY DAVID SALI email@example.com
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
n a town where the federal government has been the dominant tenant in commercial real estate seemingly forever, Michael Church and his colleagues are starting to sense a subtle shift in the landscape. The managing director at Avison Young’s Ottawa office and a broker in the capital for three decades, Church is as tapped in to the local real estate community as anyone. What he heard at last fall’s Ottawa Real Estate Forum – an event where federal government leasing strategies and requirements typically monopolize industry chatter – caused him to sit up and take notice. “The focus was not on the feds,” he says. “It was all about technology, it was all about transportation. We spent a lot of time on major projects, (multiresidential developments), which was quite refreshing.” Church and many of his fellow brokers say 2018 is shaping up to be a pivotal year, the start of a new era in which a growing number of established firms and young upstarts in the technology industry begin to put their stamp on the downtown market. “I’m seeing a full-on shift,” says Shawn Hamilton, a senior vice-president at CBRE’s Ottawa office who has been part of the local real estate scene for more than 25 years. “It’s not away from government; we’re always going to be a government town. But our reliance is less on government, and there’s now room for other business cultures and other businesses to grow in our downtown, which is very exciting.” Church calls it the “Shopify effect,” and for good reason. The e-commerce giant made headlines last spring when it leased 325,000 square feet of space in the former
Shopify made headlines in 2017 when it announced it was taking over much of the tower at 234 Laurier Ave. PHOTO COURTESY GILLEN ENGINEERING
Export Development Canada building at 234 Laurier Ave. in anticipation of adding up to 2,500 employees over the next decade. But a growing number of other firms, both new and well-established, have anchored themselves in Centretown and nearby neighbourhoods such as Little Italy, far from the traditional tech hub of Kanata North. Among them is business dashboard developer Klipfolio, one of Ottawa’s hottest companies. The booming software enterprise – which made Deloitte’s list of Canada’s 50 fastest-growing companies in 2017 – plans to vacate its longtime headquarters on Gloucester Street for a state-of-the-art new 17,000-square-foot head office in the World Exchange Plaza early this year. Tech newcomers such as online grain marketplace FarmLead and fitness tracking firm GymTrack have also chosen to make their homes downtown, close to where their predominantly 20-something workforces live and play. “Downtown is starting to become
a place to be for burgeoning tech companies, to the point now – and most of this is on the back of Shopify – technology is the biggest industry in our downtown core behind the federal government,” Hamilton says. “That will bring a culture shift to our downtown core.” Far from adhering to the traditional model of staid office towers filled with a maze of cubicles, the new crop of tech firms tends to prefer wide-open work spaces and large meeting rooms that encourage employees to congregate and bounce ideas off each other – not to mention places where they can kick back and enjoy a stress-busting game of fussball or table hockey. Veteran broker Bruce Wolfgram notes that even kitchens have gone from afterthoughts relegated to the back of an office to brightly lit beehives of activity in many workplaces. “It’s no longer a cookie-cutter approach to how you organize an office,” says Wolfgram, principal at Proveras Commercial Realty, whose firm
represents only tenants and counts a number of tech firms among its clients. The rise of tech presents both challenges and opportunities for commercial landlords, brokers say. SOARING VACANCY RATES The federal government’s exodus from downtown Class-A properties caused many landlords to woo new tenants with incentives such as free rent and subsidized fit-ups in order to fill the vacuum. That’s driven downtown office vacancy rates in those buildings down to less than five per cent, while vacancy rates in Ottawa’s aging crop of Class-B properties have spiked from close to zero a decade go to nearly 15 per cent today. The picture is even bleaker for Class-C buildings, where nearly a quarter of all leasable downtown office space sits empty. But owners of lower-tier buildings now have a chance to get some of that business back by targeting tech upstarts that want to be downtown where the action is but don’t have the budget to
lease Class-A space, experts say. Class B- and C properties are also more likely to be in the hands of local owners who have more flexibility to completely redesign a space than landlords at top-tier addresses, who are often constrained by the policies of those buildings’ large corporate owners. Many startups have “creative wishes to transform their space that might not fly in an A-class tower today,” Hamilton says. That’s opening the door to landlords in B and C-class buildings who are willing to reconfigure an office to suit a prospective tenant’s needs. “I’m not going to say that the C-class market is going to go from a vacancy of the high twenties down to zero, but I’m seeing that there is the possibility for real demand in buildings we were wondering what we were going to do with two or three years ago,” he says. “I think there need to be a couple of brave landlords who will step out and say, ‘We’re going to take this building and we’re going to be creative and retool it to appeal to the high-technology crowd.’” Church agrees. “What do people want? At the end of the day, it’s access to light, it’s goodquality air, it’s perhaps a change in design,” he says.
“Downtown is starting to become a place to be for burgeoning tech companies, to the point now – and most of this is on the back of Shopify – technology is the biggest industry in our downtown core behind the federal government. That will bring a culture shift to our downtown core.” – SHAWN HAMILTON, SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT AT CBRE IN OTTAWA
“It’s time for those landlords to say, ‘Look, I could be the next wave.’ There’s all manner of opportunities for those who (say), ‘You know, things are changing and now’s my time to change.’ You stay put at your peril.” While tech firms are the leading contenders to fill the Class-B and C vacuum, other organizations such as notfor-profits are also starting to rethink their office needs, brokers say. For example, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has just moved from Constitution Square, its home for the past decade, to a Class-B building managed by Colonnade Bridgeport at 275 Slater St., lured by the carrots of cheaper rent and a no-cost makeover of the space.
“What’s happened is there’s a value proposition in these B-class buildings that was never there before,” says Alan Doak of Proveras, which represents the chamber in leasing negotiations. “It’s not just technology companies that are thinking this way. We have clients in the legal industry that want to do things that are creative and modern. We’ve got large Crown corporations that we work with that are completely rethinking the way they want their working environment to be.” It’s now up to landlords to get on board and start reimagining their properties to make them more appealing to tenants with changing tastes and demands, experts say. “Part of the challenge is, as a
government town, we don’t have a lot of experience with that,” Hamilton says. “So we need to retool ourselves as a real estate community to understand what that means. It’s more than just beanbag chairs and bring your dog to work.” Although the move to Class-B and C properties has already begun, some brokers say it will really pick up steam in 2019, when the Department of National Defence has completely vacated the downtown core and Class-B vacancy rates are expected to peak. “It’s a sea change going on out there right now,” Wolfgram says. “We think this will continue for the next several years. The Class-B market is not going to get all filled up anytime soon.”
and unsophisticated politician who succeeded more because of luck than skill. ering financial situation. Some wrote he embarrassed the country by staying out of the war in Iraq. They criticized the Clarity
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A fresh approach to customer service Three of Ottawa’s leading retail trendsetters share their secrets to staying ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing industry BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS firstname.lastname@example.org
Mad Radish founder David Segal says today’s retailers must be good corporate citizens to reach socially responsible millennials. FILE PHOTO
depend on that money.” York, meanwhile, said his chain is redefining the concept of “grocery stores” to the point where it doesn’t even refer to its locations that way.
– FARM BOY CO-CEO JEFF YORK
The Ottawa-based chain, which is particularly popular with Baby Boomers, has grown to 24 locations and is breaking into the Toronto market. In the modern sharing economy fuelled by platforms such as Airbnb or Uber, the notion of renting a party dress for a special evening makes economic and environmental sense. Rent frock Repeat got started after Delorme needed a new gown for a wedding but didn’t want to blow a lot of dough on something she’d likely wear only once. She and her business partner started their online dress-rental business, thereby allowing women to enjoy the benefits of having access to great style without the financial burden and without cluttering up their closets and landfills. She began with about
600 dresses, which she stored in her basement. Their focus groups predicted a clientele of fashionistas, Delorme said, but they quickly discovered that was far from the case. “What we found is, a lot of the consumers don’t know the first thing about fashion,” she told the crowd. “She doesn’t know if the dress is going to look right on her or if it’s right for her body type and her hair colour. She doesn’t know what accessories go with it.” So, they opened showrooms in Toronto and the ByWard Market to give clients an opportunity to try the clothes on, thereby combining online technology with customer engagement. The lunch event was sponsored by the Canadian Club of Ottawa.
HEALTHY OPTIONS “We’re a fresh-food experience,” he said before launching into an endearing description of how Farm Boy puts a strong focus on customer service. The company only hires nice people, he insisted – and helpful ones, too. “It’s OK for them to stop working and to talk to the customer and solve their problem,” said York, who, prior to joining Farm Boy in 2009, helped regional discount chain store Giant Tiger become a roaring national success as its president. Farm Boy’s other priority is, of course, its food. It doesn’t come in a can or a box full of preservatives, like in supermarkets, he emphasized. Farm Boy focuses on selling fresh produce and healthy, homemade prepared meal options. “It’s resonating well,” said York. “We can’t open stores fast enough.”
“It’s OK for (employees) to stop working and to talk to the customer and solve their problem.”
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
etail enterprises need to do more than just pay lip service to social responsibility if they want to attract a loyal following among millennials, a trio of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs said during a panel discussion in late December. Three business leaders with a proven track record for sparking change – Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York, Mad Radish founder and chief executive David Segal and Lisa Delorme, co-founder and CEO of Rent frock Repeat designer dress rentals – took to the stage in front of a crowd of about 200 at the Chateau Laurier on Dec. 19 to discuss the future of retail in all its forms: brick and mortar, online and mobile apps. No matter what platform is used to make a sale, success still comes down to knowing your customers and making sure your values align with theirs, the panellists said. Best known as the co-founder of DavidsTea, Segal returned to his hometown to launch a pair of quickservice salad restaurants called Mad Radish, one at the corner of Metcalfe and Albert Streets and in the other in the Glebe. His eateries, which opened last summer, are so environmentally friendly that customers won’t find garbage cans in the restaurants, just compost and recycling bins. Segal told the audience of businesspeople it’s not enough to simply have a good product these days; you also have to be a good corporate citizen in order to reach socially responsible millennials. At Mad Radish, every time a customer places an order through its app or website, the company donates one serving of fresh vegetables to a lowincome individual through Community Food Centres Canada. For people who rely on food banks, it beats having to line up for Kraft Dinner, frozen hotdogs or cans of Campbell’s soup. It also changes the way companies are able to give back, said Segal. “The way it worked in the past was, a company gets created, builds itself up, gets infusions of cash, finally makes a profit, donates big novelty cheque, gets nice photograph and handshake,” he said. “The next year, they either give that money or they don’t, so the organization that the company was working with can’t
COMMENTARY Diving into the ‘Blue Ocean’ of market growth In his latest book review, former Telfer dean Micheal Kelly says the authors of Blue Ocean Shift shed light on important tools businesses can use to identify and create new market opportunities Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing — Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth by W. Chan and Renee Maubornge. New York: Hachette Books, 2017.
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
n 2005, two professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne at Francebased private business school INSEAD introduced us to the concept of “Blue Oceans” in their international bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy. “Blue Oceans” are defined as uncontested market space in which companies can dominate emerging opportunities, in contrast to “Red Oceans” – as in red with the blood of competitors – where companies fight for share and market position. In articulating the “Blue Ocean” concept, the authors challenged traditional business strategy assumptions that industry conditions and market boundaries are a given and that competitive strategy is ultimately a choice between low cost and differentiation. They encouraged companies to expand their thinking beyond competing to making competition irrelevant. While the book introduced “Blue Oceans” to the business lexicon and provided a number of useful tools and examples, it did not provide much in the way of a process for making the transition from red to blue oceans. Blue Ocean Shift closes the loop. Drawing on research undertaken since the first book that analyzed the successes and failures of numerous “Blue Ocean” projects, the book provides a number of concrete steps
and a systematic process for creating uncontested market space. A successful transition from red to blue oceans starts with the right perspective. This includes a recognition that industry conditions can be shaped and that the primary goal of strategy should be creating new demand, not fighting over existing customers. It also means setting aside the cost-value tradeoff to explore new value-cost frontiers. In addition, it involves a recognition that creative destruction and disruption are not the only ways to create new markets, as tends to be the accepted wisdom in “Red Ocean” strategy. In the view of the authors, non-disruptive creation can produce growth without necessarily disrupting or displacing business or industries by providing breakthrough solutions for an industry’s existing problem, solving a brand new problem or seizing a brand new opportunity. In many cases, the creation of new markets means focusing on attracting customers who don’t currently patronize your industry. Most organizations are focused on their industry’s existing customers and never think about those who don’t buy their product or service. It is these noncustomers, however, who often hold the greatest insights into the pain points limiting the boundaries of an industry. Two examples provided to support this assertion are Salesforce.com, which created CRM software that removed many of the pain points keeping SMEs from using existing CRM products, and Square, which did the same in opening
up the credit card market for many new and small businesses. The second element in making the transition to Blue Oceans is having practical tools for market creation with proper guidance on how to use them. The book provides a number of strategy tools and templates, as well as examples of their use. A couple of these are particularly useful. The first is the Strategy Canvass. This tool helps identify the current state of play in your industry by providing a picture of the major factors that the industry competes on and invests in, as well as what value customers receive and the profiles of the major players. The canvass helps you understand where you are positioned in the industry and to identify how you adopt a differentiated strategic position. Add to this the buyer utility map, which helps identify the specific pain points that your current or target industry is imposing on buyers throughout their entire experience, highlighting both unexplored opportunities and opportunities to change the playing field. A third tool helps you identify and understand the various tiers of noncustomers in your industry, while a fourth provides six pathways to opening a new value-cost frontier that pursues both low cost and differentiation. The final part of the book outlines a step-by-step process for making the transition to a “Blue Ocean,” a process that identifies new market opportunities and builds the confidence in your organization to create and execute your growth strategy. This book is well worth reading. Not only will it help broaden your perspective on business strategy, it will provide some useful tools for identifying and creating new market space.
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Continued from page 3 “Looking back on the projects, you realize they were, in fact, good projects, and that they’ve strengthened the community, not deteriorated the community,” says Fobert. “In retrospect, it’s good development, it makes sense, it’s supporting our infrastructure, it’s supporting the transitway, it’s doing all the things that it was intended to do. “You have to have a conviction that what you’re doing is in the public interest. The public doesn’t see the developments that we’ve turned away, that we didn’t feel were in the public interest.” Years ago, for example, FoTenn was hired to handle a rezoning application for a proposed bingo hall and Chinese grocery store in Westboro. “We thought we’d hit pay dirt,” recalls Tennant. “But we looked at each other after having researched it and decided this wasn’t good for the community. We went to the client and said, ‘We don’t think you should do this.’ The client looked at us and said, ‘Thank you very much.’ “The next day the client called to say, ‘I appreciate your honesty. I have three other properties I’d like you to work on.’ Indeed, it was an early lesson on helping people do better things.” That Westboro property, by the way, is now home to Mountain Equipment Co-op, arguably the bestever addition to the ’hood.
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Stories and photos by Caroline Phillips
Christmas spirit shines through at Caring and Sharing Exchange Volunteers with the Caring and Sharing Exchange were busier than Santa’s sleepdeprived elves on deadline as they packed hundreds of food hampers on Dec. 20 for delivery to families and individuals in need this Christmas. The Horticulture Building at Lansdowne was filled with bright morning light, the echoing sounds of holiday music and red floppy Santa hats. Deputy Mayor Mark Taylor stepped in for Mayor Jim Watson, who’s recovering from his emergency appendectomy. Fellow city councillors Mathieu Fleury (Rideau-Vanier) and Jean Cloutier (Alta Vista) were there to pack boxes. So was Ottawa Liberal MPP John Fraser and his colleague Yasir Naqvi, whose early morning energy and enthusiasm should serve him well on the campaign trail during the 2018 provincial election. “Thank you for giving your time to this worthy initiative,” board president Paul Lalonde said while thanking volunteers and corporate sponsors for coming out. Lalonde reminded the room of his personal connection to the cause. Back in the 1960s, the food hamper program helped his grandmother provide a Christmas dinner for her children on more than one occasion. “This organization has a special place in my heart,” said Lalonde, who’s also a partner at Ottawa employment law firm and sponsor Emond Harnden. “I know what a difference you’re all making in the lives of many families this Christmas season.” Lalonde found the guts to finally flaunt the Christmas blazer that he considered wearing last year, but then chickened out. Why the change of heart? He was inspired
Cindy Smith with John Fraser, MPP for Ottawa South.
by fellow volunteer Dave Williams, who didn’t think twice about wearing his bright and busy holiday jacket. The food hamper program has existed in Ottawa for 102 years. This year, the organization has close to 6,000 families requesting help but still has a list of nearly 1,000 households waiting for assistance. Almost 50 percent of its beneficiaries are children. Recipients include a single mother of two living in assisted housing and diagnosed with cancer. “She’s finding it hard to make ends meet, but she really wants to provide a Christmas for her two little girls,” said executive director Cindy Smith. “These are the kind of people we see; people who are living under circumstances that have left them in a bad place. But we’re here to help.” Taylor asked the volunteers whether they would consider performing one more task after they were done packing and delivering the hampers: promoting the year-round charity to the general public. “Go be an evangelist for the cause; go talk about the need in our community and how great our community is at stepping up and serving that need,” he said.
(Top and bottom) Volunteers showed up to the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park on Dec. 20 to help pack food hamper boxes for the Caring and Sharing’s Christmas Exchange program.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre, volunteered during the Caring and Sharing Exchange’s hamper-packing day.
Peter Veselovsky, president of Konnexis, helps to hand out food.
From left, Coun. Jean Cloutier with Deputy Mayor Mark Taylor and Coun. Mathieu Fleury.
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SERVING UP PLENTY OF CHRISTMAS CHEER The only way the Christmas Cheer Breakfast could’ve been more festive was for snowflakes to start falling gently from the ceiling of the Westin Ottawa as the downtown hotel once again hosted its two-hour fundraiser packed with holiday spirit from start to finish. The event, held Dec. 8, raised $120,000 and drew some 800 community and business leaders to the popular breakfast, which features holiday music and decor, celebrity servers, live music and prizes. The list of beneficiaries includes the Ottawa Food Bank, the Caring and Sharing Exchange, Shepherds of Good Hope and Youth Services Bureau. The event is organized by the volunteer Christmas Cheer Foundation. It’s chaired by Jim McConnery, a partner at Welch LLP, and includes the hotel’s general manager, Ross Meredith. The breakfast raises funds through ticket sales, donations and corporate
sponsorship. McConnery was joined on stage by his two youngest daughters for the ceremonial cheque presentations. There was a surprise announcement that Lisa Mierins, co-president of major sponsor Mierins Automotive Group, was doubling the firm’s corporate donation from $10,000 to $20,000. Former long-term board member Hassa Mirchandani, president of Bytown Travel, had to take a break from working the room in order to hear McConnery express his gratitude to the businessman for his persuasive volunteer fundraising powers. “A typical phone call from Hassa might go along the lines of, ‘Hi, I’m calling on behalf of Christmas Cheer and I’d like to sell you a table to the event,’” said McConnery on stage. “The person might say, ‘Well, we’re not sure.’ Mirchandani’s response: “‘OK, I’ve got you down for two tables. I’ll see you there.’”
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From left, Graham Richardson, news anchor for CTV Ottawa, seen alongside Mayor Jim Watson, was one of the celebrity servers helping out at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast.
From left, Jim McConnery, chair of the Christmas Cheer Foundation, with fellow board members Chris Kincaid, vice-president and COO of Mediaplus Advertising, and hotel general manager Ross Meredith.
Sgts. Stephanie Andrascik and Sebastien Paradis were among the members of the Ottawa Police Service who volunteered.
Leanne Cusack from CTV Ottawa was back to co-emcee the breakfast with her carol-singing colleague Michael O’Byrne. Young students from Sing House Studios, which is owned by Chantal Hackett, entertained the crowd with their sweet voices. The live music also included a big brass band and a violin player with keyboard accompanist. Highlights included a coin-flipping
fundraising contest that saw participants guess the outcome of the toss by placing their hands on their heads or derrières. Lucky ducks continued to the next round, with the final contestant winning a stay at the Westin, dinner for four at the National Arts Centre’s Le Café with tickets to one of its shows, and a Rideau Centre gift card. — firstname.lastname@example.org
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Stories and photos by Caroline Phillips
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
Young Jewish professionals connect at Chanukah Ball
There were dreidels, donuts and dancing awaiting the nearly 100 attendees of the Chanukah Ball organized on Dec. 16 by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Emerging Generation division. Young professionals from Ottawa’s Jewish community took some time off from tending to their children and careers in order to spend a fun and relaxing night out at the annual holiday gathering, held this year at the Canadian War Museum. “It’s great to hang out with Hebrews and Shebrews and enjoy a little Chanukah spirit in a community that doesn’t always have that much going on Jewish-wise,” said the event’s bar sponsor, Solomon Friedman, managing partner of criminal defence law firm Edelson & Friedman LLP. The evening was held in support of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, which runs an annual campaign to build community, assist the vulnerable, boost Jewish education and support Israel. Ottawa is home to some 14,000 Jewish residents. Among the JFO’s partner agencies are local Jewish schools and preschools, youth groups and summer camps, social service organizations and the Hillel Lodge long-term care facility. Its campaign, officially launched in September, hit the $4-million mark a couple of weeks ago. “I’m happy to help,” added Friedman, who’s also a member of Young Israel of Ottawa, a father of three and past OBJ Forty Under 40 recipient. “We’re very lucky that we have one organization that supports a lot of really fantastic causes, from the preschool to Hillel Lodge.” The evening was chaired by Arielle Kreisman, a kindergarten teacher at Turnbull School, and by Ottawa lawyer Jacob Polowin with Gowling WLG. Both his parents, Melanie and Michael Polowin, are law partners at the firm. He works with his father, a well-known municipal and real estate lawyer. The JFO’s Emerging Gen aims to bring together Jewish people between those tricky ages of 18 and 40, when they’re busy with their jobs and families. “It’s about building a community and keeping people engaged within that group, so that they don’t fall off the map,” said Polowin. “Across the board, our generation tends to be less engaged with more traditional community institutions, anyway.” Also seen were Samuel Levine, tax manager at Ernst & Young and co-chair of the Emerging Gen division, as well as incoming co-chair Zev Kershman, a real estate broker. First-time attendees included Dr.
From left, Neil Presner, from Tier Three Brokerage, with his wife, Gillian Presner, Jen Zaret and her husband, Josh Zaret.
From left, Josh Brantz and Sheva Brantz with Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Solomon Friedman.
Gillian Presner and her husband, Neil Presner. In past years, they’d seen fun photos from the Chanukah Ball posted online and on Facebook and regretted not having gone. This year, the parents of three young children decided to take the party plunge. “We so rarely get out now, but we just figured it’s worth it to try this one night and see some other friends,” said Dr. Presner, who was enjoying herself. She wasn’t planning to stay out late; she’s so tired from having a young family and from recovering from the effects of both cancer and its treatment. The emergency medicine pediatrician at CHEO was diagnosed with a malignant tumour the size of a tennis ball in her brain in her mid-30s while expecting her third child. Her other two kids were only three and one. Dr. Presner was the keynote speaker at the annual Choices event organized by the JFO’s Women’s Campaign in November. As well, she was honoured in
Arielle Kreisman and Jacob Polowin co-chaired the Chanukah Ball, organized by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Emerging Generation division.
Micah Garten of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa with his wife Jessica in the photo booth at the annual Chanukah Ball.
June with the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award for being a tireless community leader. Upon receiving her award, she spoke briefly about her devastating diagnosis in a thoughtful, insightful and inspiring way. “What has happened to me has also completely changed the way I view getting older,” she said at the time. “While I still fret about my little grey hairs, I’m also happy I’ve made it to the point of my Zev Kershman, left, and Samuel Levine. life to have them, and that I can have fun covering them up with bright pink. The Chanukah Ball was catered by “I relish and savour birthdays like the Jewish community’s go-to caterer, never before. I love learning new things Creative Kosher Catering. Its spread of and I take great joy in planning for my food included yummy-looking donuts, in family’s future, picturing it as I plan keeping with the custom of eating fried instead of being devastated that I will foods during Chanukah. probably miss most of it.” The evening also featured a photo The Presners were out that night with booth filled with props and speech Jen Zaret, who co-chaired the Choices balloons with “You had me at Shalom” event, and her husband, Josh Zaret, and other cute expressions. A menorah vice-president and general manager was on display, along with table of Gemstone custom homes, project centrepieces made up of Chanukah coins, management and general contractor. candles and dreidels.
OTTAWA TOURISM CELEBRATES BANNER 2017 AT HOLIDAY BASH WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS TO THE
From left, artist Nick Glynn with Mayor Jim Watson and Downtown Rideau BIA executive director Peggy DuCharme.
As a proud sponsor, the Ottawa Business Journal is giving away 2 PAIRS of tickets ($1800 value) to the 2018 Viennese Winter Ball, to be held in the Shaw Centre’s panoramic Trillium Ballroom on February 10! To enter the contest, find the above photo on the Viennese Winter Ball Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram accounts. FACEBOOK - Like the Page (@VienneseWinterBall), like the photo or comment letting us know why you want to attend! TWITTER – Follow the account (@VWBOttawa), like the tweet containing the photo or reply to it letting us know why you want to attend! LINKEDIN – Follow the page, like the photo or comment letting us know why you want to attend! INSTAGRAM – Follow the account (@VWBOttawa), like the photo or comment letting us know why you want to attend! Each action earns you one entry into the contest. For more info on the Viennese Winter Ball and full contest rules, visit viennesewinterball.ca Contest closes January 15, 2018. Good luck!
month, as was June and May, but the guests still came. “Really, it’s almost like La Machine scared the clouds away because, from that point on, it was a great time.” Morrison said, of all the events, he was probably most impressed by the Red Bull Crashed Ice sports event that got Ottawa all excited back in early March. Scaffolding was erected. Giant ice slides were installed. Huge crowds turned out to watch the event between the Château Laurier hotel and Parliament Hill. Never mind that it was free-ee-zing cold. “That was a phenomenal event,” he said. Earlier that afternoon, Ottawa Tourism’s director of communications and media relations, Jantine Van Kregten, skated with local media on the Canada 150 Rink on Parliament Hill on its first day of operation. “You’re literally skating on Parliament Hill, hearing the Peace Tower chime every quarter hour,” she said of her experience. Moreover, songs by The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Neil Young and others were playing over the sound system. “Everyone had huge smiles on their faces,” Van Kregten enthused. “It was just such a cool experience, and all I could think of is: Where else in the world would this happen? On the White House lawn? No. In Red Square? I don’t think so.” The attraction will stick around until Feb. 25. Members of the public are free to skate on the ice, provided they book ahead of time. Other attendees included Michael Tremblay, CEO of Invest Ottawa, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, Ian Faris, and Peggy DuCharme, executive director of the Downtown Rideau BIA. She was with artist Nick Glynn of Glynn Brothers Art, whose public art can be spotted on mural boxes along the east end of Rideau Street.
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MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
For social columnists, attending a party for the hospitality industry is a dream come true. Not only is every door politely held open for you, but every guest wears a name tag clearly identifying who they are and for whom they work. Ottawa Tourism’s holiday party on Dec. 7 was no different. A crowd of about 200 staff, industry partners and supporters filled the Lowertown Brewery in the ByWard Market for a night of mixing and mingling. If the mood seemed particularly celebratory, it was because our city is coming off a banner tourism year. Ottawa was a national hotspot thanks to all the activities organized for Canada’s 150th anniversary. “I still pinch myself every morning, waking up knowing that I’ve got the best job in town working with the best team in the country,” Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt told the room during his brief remarks. He gave a tip of the tuque to Mayor Jim Watson for his vision and his leadership. “We know how lucky we are to have you as our mayor,” said Crockatt. Watson was president and CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission in the early 2000s. “This has been a very special year in terms of the number of big events and the number of eyeballs on Ottawa and the amount of attention on Ottawa,” said Crockatt, who’s predicting 2017 will go down as a “turning point” for the city. “In the future, when we look back on 2017, we’re going to look at it as a pretty significant time in our history for tourism.” OBJ.social wanted to know which event from this past year was Crockatt’s favourite. “It is impossible to pick out one because there were so many, but I think the one I hope remains in people’s minds is La Machine,” he responded. The Ottawa 2017 signature event saw giant mechanical creatures in the form of a dragon and a spider make their way through the downtown core in late July, in the presence of thousands of spectators. It was a good year for the hotel industry, confirmed Colin Morrison, general manager of the Embassy Hotel & Suites and chair of the board for the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association. “It started off a little slow, but we made up for it in the end,” Morrison told OBJ.social. “Mother nature didn’t do us any favours. July was a very wet
After the big 2017 party, where does Ottawa go from here? Local tourism industry needs a long-term plan to make sure the goodwill generated by city’s Canada 150 celebrations doesn’t go to waste once the glow has faded, experts say BY DAVID SALI email@example.com
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018
ichael Crockatt calls the Canada 150 celebrations a “great gift” that made 2017 a record year for the city’s tourism industry. The big question facing Ottawa Tourism’s CEO now is: will that gift keep on giving? Coming off the euphoric highs of a once-in-a-lifetime slate of events to celebrate the country’s sesquicentennial, local tourism officials such as Crockatt now face the dilemma of how to avoid – or at least mitigate – the inevitable “hangover” that comes with the realization the party is over. Crockatt and others in the industry are realistic enough to understand 2017 can’t be duplicated. But they’re also optimistic enough to believe the spotlight that shone on the nation’s capital all through Canada’s big year will be strong enough to create an enduring halo effect. “The meeting and events that were here, sure, they’re not all coming back in 2018, but it helps us build that resume that we can host these huge events that people didn’t necessarily think that Ottawa had the capacity to do,” Crockatt told OBJ in a recent interview. “So it does change the way that some convention planners and meeting planners and event planners think about Ottawa. We’re on a different sort of playing field now, I think, than we were before.” So where does the industry go from here? The success of big-ticket events such as La Machine, Kontinuum and others has many city leaders musing about the possibility of making them annual occurrences to help capitalize on the momentum from 2017. But those events came with a hefty price tag. The Ottawa 2017 Bureau, which organized the city’s Canada 150 bash, collected more than $28 million from private- and public-sector partners such as Canada Post, CIBC, Bell and Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company to help cover the tab for spectacles such as La Machine, which alone cost $3 million. Industry officials are well aware that kind of cash won’t be lavished on a 151st birthday celebration, meaning Ottawa’s
La Machine was among the city’s most successful 2017 events, drawing a total of 750,000 spectators. PHOTO COURTESY OTTAWA 2017 BUREAU
Overnight tourist visits to Ottawa jump 5.5% on strength of Canada 150 celebrations The number of visitors to Canada’s capital is expected to remain elevated through 2018 thanks in part to the exposure Ottawa gained from the festivities held this year marking the country’s 150th anniversary, according to a new report. The Conference Board of Canada said last month the number of overnight visitors to Ottawa climbed 5.5 per cent to 5.37 million individuals in 2017. The think tank said it expects those numbers to not only be sustained this year, but actually increase 1.5 per cent to 5.45 million. These figures mean Ottawa recorded the largest relative increase in overnight visitors this year among the 10 metropolitan areas covered by the Conference Board. However, the National Capital Region is projected to have the smallest increase in 2018. Nevertheless, the same storyline behind Ottawa’s ups and downs is also playing out in other major Canadian tourism markets.
“The hundreds of events organized in communities across the country to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday attracted visitors from both near and far, and contributed to a banner year for tourism in 2017,” Greg Hermus, associate director for the think tank’s Canadian Tourism Research Institute, said in a statement. “With this major milestone behind us, we can anticipate more subdued growth going forward. However, tourism will continue to be boosted by the low Canadian dollar, increased direct air capacity, and new marketing efforts,” he added. Locally, the Ottawa 2017 Bureau organized a string of high-profile events to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial, including Red Bull Crashed Ice, La Machine and Kontinuum. Additionally, the city was able to attract major sporting and cultural events including the Juno Awards, Grey Cup and an outdoor NHL game.
Those events helped bump the city’s hotel occupancy rate up three percentage points over 2016 to 77.25 per cent. According to Ottawa Tourism, overall room revenues in 2017 jumped from $440 million to $464 million – an increase of 16 per cent. Properties in Ottawa’s suburbs saw a bigger uptick in guest stays than downtown hotels, said the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association’s Steve Ball. He said the Canada 150 festivities attracted a large number of families and budget-minded travellers who opted for cheaper accommodations in outlying areas. “The downtown hotels saw some growth, but that probably didn’t meet their expectations,” he said, adding average room revenues were up consistently across the city. “I think it’s a sign of success. In the hotel industry, compression is not a bad thing. As the downtown core fills up, naturally it pushes more occupancy to the suburbs.” – Peter Kovessy
“There’s no miracle cure for hangovers. You’ve got to have a long-term plan that sets the destination up to be consistently competitive and consistently successful.” – OTTAWA TOURISM CONSULTANT PAT KELLY
Gatineau’s MosaiCanada attracted an attendance of 1.3 million. PHOTO COURTESY OTTAWA TOURISM
business needs to think carefully about what the future of the industry will look like. “I would say without a doubt we will be able to continue some of these (events), either in 2018 or in future years,” he said. “The costs of some of them are high, but the benefits are enormous. We want informed, smart decisions that are based on data and evidence, and that’s our next step. We share the enthusiasm about keeping some of these things, but we want to make sure it’s the ones that have an impact on visitation.”
Kontinuum dazzled visitors last summer. PHOTO COURTESY OTTAWA TOURISM
“There’s no miracle cure for hangovers,” Ottawa-based consultant Pat Kelly said. Last year was an anomaly, he noted, and the city’s tourism community needs to come up with a plan to make sure the capital remains on visitors’ radar even when their patriotic pride isn’t piqued by grand displays of nationalism. “You can’t depend on those types of years,” Kelly said. “Part of the success of all of these events that took place in 2017 was the fact that it was the 150th anniversary of Canada.” The former general manager of the Westin and Chateau Laurier said the city, Ottawa Tourism and other agencies such as the National Capital Commission need to put their heads together and figure out what events are most likely to be winners over the long haul. That requires research and strategic thinking, he added. “You’ve got to have a long-term plan that sets the destination up to be consistently competitive and consistently successful. I think it’s more important to focus on doing things that will help to ensure that 2019, 2020, 2021 and beyond are solid years.” Crockatt agreed the city’s tourism
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tourist offerings in 2018 and beyond will need to be scaled back dramatically. “We have to figure out what we can do, what we can afford, and start implementing those ideas,” Mayor Jim Watson told the crowd at Ottawa’s Economic Outlook luncheon in early December. The mayor pointed to two events in particular he felt are well-positioned to become repeat attractions: the Ottawa Welcomes the World series, in which the city partnered with embassies to host cultural events, and the Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge. Funding such events could be a “challenge,” Watson conceded. The new four per cent hotel tax that is replacing the voluntary three per cent “destination development fee” could help generate extra revenue for new activities, he noted, but he also said the city will have to hit up the private sector for additional capital. But before writing any cheques, local tourism agencies and corporate benefactors alike need to sit down and figure out exactly what strategy will benefit the industry most over the long term, one tourism expert said.
‘WE’RE GETTING SMARTER’ Crockatt said his agency, which is funded partly by the city and has a mandate to market Ottawa to tourists around the world, is getting better at analyzing data combed from sources such as visitor review apps and surveys to find out what events and attractions are striking the biggest chords with visitors. He said the organization recently hired a full-time employee to study the economic impact of events such as Kontinuum with the aim of determining which ones would be most worth bringing back. It’s also partnered with the Rideau Centre on a survey that asks users their opinions about Ottawa as a tourist destination when they log on to the shopping centre’s WiFi system. “We’re getting smarter,” Crockatt said. “It’s critical for us to pay to as much attention to the visitor experience and the development of our destination as it is just about the marketing side of things.” He said the agency is also set to launch a new marketing campaign on its social media channels featuring local residents telling their stories about what makes the capital a great place to live and visit. “I think people are going to see Ottawa in a different way,” Crockatt said. “We know they already are starting to see it in a different way, and I think this will help that as well. There’s some cool things you’re going to see in 2018.” For example, the agency recently partnered with other bodies, including the
city and the NCC, to create new wayfinding signage designed to make it easier for travellers to navigate their way to museums and other attractions. It also created a new Facebook Messenger app that encourages visitors to take part in various activities at museums and other attractions. However, all the marketing magic in the world won’t be able to obscure the fact that starting later this year, the city’s most recognizable tourist attraction will be encased in scaffolding when Parliament Hill’s Centre Block undergoes a decadelong renovation. So what’s a town to do when its mostphotographed building turns into a construction zone? While he admitted the prospect was a “little frightening,” Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association president Steve Ball tried to put a positive spin on it. “I believe that gives us an opportunity to broaden the base of the product all around Ottawa and Gatineau and change Canada Day into a different kind of experience that doesn’t have as much focus on Centre Block and a concert on the Hill,” he said. “We’re working with the feds in the hope that they’ll put a nice facade … on the building. We’re trying to mitigate as much of that as we can, and I think (the Department of Canadian) Heritage is listening.” Kelly said the Centre Block construction project might be just the incentive the city needs to start leaning less on tried-andtrue attractions such as the Hill and start focusing more on overlooked aspects of the capital such as its thriving culinary scene and the untapped potential of the Rideau Canal. “Perhaps this is an opportunity to dispel the perception that Ottawa is a one-trick town,” he said. “We’ve become a great sports town. We have interesting neighbourhoods. With Parliament Hill under a tent, look for other opportunities to create a proper perception of Ottawa. It has a lot more to offer than just Parliament Hill.” – With files from Kieran Delamont
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EMPLOYEES’ CHOICE AWARDS
From left, ECA sponsor Michael Horne with Iversoft Solutions’ Vicki Iverson, Stephanie Daudlin and Graeme Barlow. PHOTOS BY MARK HOLLERON
‘It’s a fun place to come to work’ From welcoming pets to paying for summer camps, Ottawa’s top employers go above and beyond to make their offices happy places to be BY DAVID SALI firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 ECA RECIPIENTS Brookstreet Hotel Collins Barrow Decisive Technologies Giant Tiger Iversoft Solutions The Marshes Golf Club Martello Technologies ProntoForms RealDecoy Syntronic Lee said the formula for being an employee-friendly firm isn’t complicated. “Don’t be too serious … and make sure there’s at least one good practical joke set up for everybody,” he explained with a chuckle. “You’ve got to do something fun. That’s important for us. This award means a lot to us.” There has been zero turnover among Martello’s 38 employees in the past 12 months, he said, a rare record of workforce stability in the tech sector. “That says a lot,” Lee said. “They’re very happy with their job and they’re very happy where they are. They feel at home and they’re treated with respect.” – With additional reporting by Caroline Phillips
‘FIGHT FOR TALENT’ “In Ottawa especially, the fight for talent is fierce,” said Michael Horne, cofounder and partner at Meldrum Horne & Associates, a local firm specializing in employee benefits, pension, insurance and retirement planning. “Most of the companies we work with want to be at the top of whatever industry sector they’re in.” Meldrum Horne & Associates sponsored the awards, which were hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.
“Success in business truly is dependent on the quality of the team that you can build these days,” OBJ publisher Michael Curran said in his welcoming remarks. Giant Tiger senior vice-president of human resources Ron Hyson credits the discount chain’s “family atmosphere” for fuelling its rise from a single store in the ByWard Market more than 50 years ago to a national powerhouse with more than 200 locations and annual sales in excess of $1 billion. “We have many programs throughout the organization that really reinforce that (family-first) concept,” pointing to perks such as subsidies to help employees send their kids to YMCA summer camps. The retail chain now has roughly 8,000 employees from Alberta to Prince Edward Island but remains headquartered in downtown Ottawa. “Ottawa for us is a very familyfriendly community,” Hyson said. “It’s big enough to give us what we need as a head office, but it’s not so big that we lose connections with all our employees.” As one of Martello’s four original employees, software developer Eugene Lee goes to great lengths to create a collegial atmosphere at the company where he’s worked for the past nine years. He jokingly noted his efforts weren’t lost on former Martello boss Bruce Linton, who tagged him “chief culture officer.”
– MARTELLO TECHNOLOGIES SOFTWARE DEVELOPER EUGENE LEE, ON THE SECRET TO A HAPPY WORKPLACE
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losing out a year in which it posted triple-digit revenue growth, closed a major acquisition and boosted its headcount by 50 per cent, Iversoft Solutions had yet another reason to celebrate in December. The east-end app development firm capped off a stellar 2017 in style when it was one of 10 Ottawa companies that received Employees’ Choice Awards during a networking reception and awards ceremony at the Rideau Club on Dec. 14. Iversoft co-founder and chief technical officer Vicki Iverson says all that success doesn’t just happen by accident: it requires dedicated employees who work together to achieve a common goal. To that end, the 30-employee firm prides itself on putting people first. Among its perks are a “pet-friendly” office environment where dogs are welcome. On any given day, you’re likely to find up to a dozen canine companions patrolling its halls. “We’ve definitely been putting a focus on strategic growth and the company culture,” said Iverson, whose company also hosts regular Friday afternoon socials, quarterly team-building activities such as zip-lining and gokarting and Dungeons and Dragons
game nights. It’s all part of an effort to boost camaraderie and keep 9-to-5 from turning into a grind. “We want everyone to feel like it’s a fun place to come to work,” she said, adding the more clearly defined her company’s culture becomes, the easier it is to recruit new employees who mesh with it. “It’s actually become a lot easier to find the cultural fit, just because people kind of self-select. Employees participated in the 11th edition of the awards by completing confidential surveys processed by TalentMap, an Ottawa-based company specializing in employee satisfaction surveys and software. In a market where highly skilled labour is at a premium, companies that treat their most valuable resources well are at a distinct advantage.
“Don’t be too serious … and make sure there’s at least one good practical joke set up for everybody. You’ve got to do something fun.”
CONNECTING TECH IN OTTAWA
Techopia Year in Review
A look back at the city’s biggest tech stories from
year around $57 on the TSX, shares are trading near $135 heading into 2018. It was the firm’s merchants who capped off Shopify’s year in a stunning fashion, collectively selling more than US$1 billion in gross merchandise volume over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.
2017 CEO Tobi Lutke led Shopify through some tricky challenges last year. Provided by L-Spark.
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2018 OBJ.CA
The local economic development agency started the year by filling its long-vacant CEO role with former Microsoft Canada exec Michael Tremblay, and that was just the beginning of an all-new Invest Ottawa. Throughout the year, the organization would settle into its home at Bayview Yards, including the launch of the MadeMill makerspace. The economic hustle didn’t stop either. Invest Ottawa launched its “Work in Ottawa” campaign to attract U.S. talent to the city and scored an extra $1.3 million in sponsorship money. Towards the end of the year Tremblay presented a rough sketch of the organization’s new strategic vision. The path forward involves connecting local
BlackBerry’s automotive Ottawa outpost was primed for a big year after receiving $100 million from its parent company in late 2016. BlackBerry QNX secured its partnership with Ford Motors, as the U.S. startups to government customers and Activists confronted the e-commerce firm car maker set down a $337.9-million fostering R&D partnerships with postwith a petition to block the controversial alt- investment in the city in April, absorbing secondary institutions. right website from selling its merchandise 300 former BlackBerry employees in the Tremblay also encouraged firms through the Shopify platform. CEO Tobi process. As one analyst put it, “Ford is to capitalize on the “Fourth Industrial Lütke fought back, defending the choice basically getting into the QNX business.” Revolution,” a rising economic trend at to host Breitbart’s store in an open letter, BlackBerry QNX capped off the year the intersection of physical, digital and calling it a matter of free speech. by rolling out the first on-road test of biological technologies. Later in the year, a short seller’s video an autonomous vehicle in Canada. The claimed the firm was violating Federal Kanata North Business Association’s Shopify: Trade Commission rules by overpromising then-executive director Jenna Sudds said Ottawa’s e-commerce star continued to merchant success. Lütke said the firm at the time that BlackBerry QNX and shine in 2017, but with success came hadn’t been contacted by the FTC in the 70-some Ottawa companies working naysayers. regards to these claims and defended in autonomous vehicles reflect the high Shopify’s revenues continued to rise Shopify’s messaging as a celebration of concentration of connected car talent in across the first three quarters of fiscal entrepreneurialism and its challenges. the capital. 2017, and the firm crossed the threshold of While Shopify’s stock dipped “This critical mass of expertise and 500,000 merchants using its platforms. significantly after the claims, there’s no innovation is not replicated anywhere else One of those merchants put Shopify in a denying the firm’s overall success on in Canada,” she said. “They’re all here for tight spot early in the year: Breitbart News. the markets this year. After starting the a reason.” by Craig Lord
Amazon fever gripped Ottawa this year as the Seattle-based firm announced a North America-wide competition in the summer to find a host city for its “HQ2.” To win, all Ottawa needed was an ecosystem with 50,000 available tech workers, 500,000 square feet of shovel-ready land, an international airport 40 minutes away and any other creative elements the region could fit in its application. Some observers took “creative” to mean tax incentives from various levels of government, predicting that the HQ2 competition would become a “race to the bottom.” Others, including Pythian CEO Paul Vallée, felt that if Ottawa won the competition, it would hurt smaller players in the city’s burgeoning tech scene. Ottawa ultimately partnered with Gatineau on its bid, pitching the two cities as a combined package with LeBreton Flats as a possible waterfront location for Amazonians.
I saw this opportunity where I was really at the beginning of something huge.
Spiderwort CEO Charles Cuerrier says that despite a lifetime in the lab, he’s always wanted to start a company. Photo by Mark Holleron.
by Craig Lord
Ottawa startup Spiderwort believes it can take these structures found in nature and apply them to the human body with biomaterials that could regrow skin, bones and even spinal tissue – without the fear of rejection. You’ve probably already heard of one of
nlike our fleshy human bodies, when trees break a limb, they don’t have casts put on their branches. The vital secret of plant structures lies in the cellulose – the cell walls of the organism – that form the scaffolding to rebuild what’s broken.
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Startups to Watch: Spiderwort targets growing biomaterials industry
the firm’s co-founders. Ottawa’s Dr. Andrew could be toxic for the body,” Cuerrier says. Pelling rose to TED fame with his 2016 Spiderwort’s cellulose approach talk, in which he showed a human ear is, in a word, more natural. It ensures grown from an apple. biocompatibility, he says, so “the body will Spiderwort spawned from Pelling’s accept it like its own.” lab at the University of Ottawa, where Cuerrier believes that one day, he, PhD student Daniel Modulevsky and Spiderwort’s biomaterials will be able to post-doctorate Charles Cuerrier were guide the regrowth of spinal cord structures researching biomaterials. in paraplegic patients. It’s a lofty goal, but Cuerrier had been an academic for it’s what makes the combined challenges his entire career, but came from an of biotechnology and entrepreneurialism entrepreneurial family of hotel and grocery worth it. store owners. Now the “To be able to say to CEO of Spiderwort, the patient you have a he tells Techopia chance to walk again, to Spiderwort that he always knew feel again … that will be he wanted to start a incredible.” Product: company and saw the Biomaterials that team on the edge of a Clinical testing could regrow skin, medical revolution with The barriers to entry in bones and tissue its novel approach to biomedicine are high, biomaterials. and for good reason. Key players: Charles “I saw this Startups hoping to bring Cuerrier (CEO), Dr. opportunity where I was products or devices Andrew Pelling, really at the beginning into the healthcare field Daniel Modulevsky of something huge. I have high bars to clear had to convince Andrew that include years of Funding: Multiple and Daniel that we have clinical testing to be research grants; to press ourselves to certified safe for public currently raising create a biotechnologies use. It’ll be two to three company and to push $250,000 seed round years before surgeons ourselves with our in hospitals are using knowledge,” he says. Spiderwort’s products. It’s a market that’s on “When a company is the rise, according to a global research firm. focused on developing a web application, In a recent report, MarketsandMarkets the tools that you need are a good computer clocked the value of the biomaterials and good programmers … but in life industry at US$70.9 billion in 2016 and science industry, we are talking about expects that to more than double to nearly huge infrastructures, research lab … it’s US$150 billion by 2021. extremely expensive,” Cuerrier says. To date, the firm has subsisted with the Competitive edge help of multiple research grants, alongside The potentials of biomaterials go well support from the University of Ottawa beyond growing an apple on an ear. Yes, and Invest Ottawa, where it lives in the soft tissues such as nose and ear cartilage incubator space at Bayview Yards. It’s also are part of the package, but the cellulose in the midst of raising a $250,000 seed can be programmed for more elaborate round. structures. Local successes such as Shopify and Spiderwort’s biomaterials could Nortel have branded Ottawa as a hub for radically change how patients with broken software and telecom firms, but Cuerrier bones recover. The current recovery says the local startup story goes deeper procedure is a painful mechanical and than that. He says the city has several firms manual process for patients, taking months working in the health-care field, whether at a time to ensure bones set properly. it be clinical research, new devices or Biomaterials transplanted into an arm or biotechnologies. leg could help guide bones to grow into the Spiderwort is among the local right shape and position. companies that are part of the so-called Cuerrier says biomaterials are a “really “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which competitive” industry today, but Spiderwort loosely refers to the intersection of physical, has an edge that would put its products digital and biological technologies. Invest above the rest. Traditional materials fall Ottawa CEO Michael Tremblay signalled into two main streams: synthetic body in discussions about the agency’s strategic parts made of silicon, or more authentic plan that he’d like the capital to focus on materials extracted from cadavers. firms that can capitalize on this new wave Squeamishness and ethical of tech. considerations aside, these solutions are “There is a health science industry in often rejected from the bodies they’re Ottawa, and we are doing really amazing placed in. things that will for sure change the lives of “These are materials that, in the end, Ontarians and Canadians,” says Cuerrier.
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FOR THE RECORD Contracts The following contains information about recent contracts, standing offers and supply arrangements awarded to local firms. LS Telcom Ltd. 1145 Hunt Club Rd. Description: ADP software Buyer: Industry Canada $22,841,979 Lockheed Martin Canada Inc. 501 Palladium Dr. Description: Radar equipment (military), except airborne – repair and overhaul Buyer: DND $13,800,000
Immigration Canada $8,643,561
Northern Affairs Canada $3,449,250
Modis Canada Inc. 155 Queen St. Description: Information management services Buyer: Citizenship and Immigration Canada $5,905,393
Makwa Resourcing Inc. and TPG Technology Consulting Ltd. in joint venture 9 Murphy Crt. Description: Application services Buyer: Citizenship and Immigration Canada $3,231,144
S.i. Systems Ltd. 170 Laurier Ave. W. Description: Information management services Buyer: Citizenship and Immigration Canada $5,845,687
S.i. Systems Ltd. 170 Laurier Ave. W. Description: Application services Buyer: Citizenship and Immigration Canada $8,747,838
Veritaaq Technology House Inc. 1111 Prince of Wales Dr. Description: Information management services Buyer: Citizenship and Immigration Canada $5,824,614
Modis Canada Inc. 155 Queen St. Description: Application services Buyer: Citizenship and
Donna Cona Inc. 106 Colonnade Rd. Description: Maintenance application for DIAND Buyer: Indigenous and
Buyer: Department of National Defence $1,077,982 Levitt-Safety Ltd. 21 Antares Dr. Description: Fire, safety and rescue equipment Buyer: PWGSC $1,071,428
Emcon Emanation Control Ltd. 36 Terry Fox Dr. Description: Communications, security equipment and components Buyer: DND $1,045,806 Nisha Technologies Inc. 2150 Thurston Dr. Description: Rugged 2in1s for
ADGA Group Consultants Inc. 110 Argyle Ave. Description: Professional services for military command software centre Buyer: DND $2,428,116 Excel Human Resources Inc. 102 Bank St. Description: Help desk specialists Buyer: Industry Canada $2,189,997
DND Buyer: Shared Services Canada $915,832 WorldReach Software Corp. 2650 Queensview Dr. Description: Informatics professional services Buyer: Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development $816,364
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RON JONAS 3717 St. Joseph Blvd, Orleans, ON, K1C 1T1 Tel: 613-837-0111 Fax: 613-837-6724 www.jonasrestoration.com
Thank you for sharing your insights in 2017 on how to make Ottawa the most innovative city and BEST PLACE to do business. This data is part of the Ottawa Business Growth Survey. Conducted by Abacus Data and made possible by Welch LLP, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Ottawa Business Journal, the survey gathered input from hundreds of local businesses.
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Download your FREE Digital copy at www.ottawabusinessgrowthreport.ca
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