First Person: The Ontario Investment Office is a one-stop source of information for investors

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Editor’s Note: This article was provided by the newly established Ontario Investment Bureau (BIO), who approved this publication. Ontario businesses and foreign investors can access BIO’s business concierge service, a one-stop source of information to increase business growth.

The province of Ontario is a sponsor of the Location Canada supplement of Area Development as well as our Canadian FDI Forum, which will take place in Quebec City from October 22 to 24, 2017. The Forum brings together Canadian economic development organizations and industry consultants and other business experts who offer their perspective on the growth of the Canadian economy.

A D: Can you describe the “one-stop” corporate concierge services of the newly established Ontario Investment Office?

Odette : Let me first explain Why we created the Ontario Office of Investments (BIO). There has been a lot of soul-searching in its development. It started with a question: What is the difference between good and exceptional? We have done a good job touting our low business costs, innovation prowess, excellent quality of life, superior market access, and incredible incentive programs. But that didn’t explain who to contact, how to get things done, or when you could expect to achieve your business goals. What seemed to be missing was the human element – the fact that there were real faces behind the outside of government.

Allan O’Dette was appointed Ontario’s first Chief Investment Officer (CIO) in April 2017.

And it’s not just about FDI. We have transformed our business growth / expansion activities through a new integrated approach to client management and business development that makes Ontario best in class.

Whether you are a national company trying to establish itself or an international multinational looking to expand beyond your borders, the process can be downright overwhelming. Where to start ? You have a state / provincial government, a municipal government and, of course, a federal government. Each comes with its own multiple layers and processes. How can you expect an investor to know all the right relationships and the right business channels?

We have made a conscious decision to untangle the red tape. With everything under “one tent”, our corporate concierge services provide personalized information and intelligence on taxes, regulations, incentives and immigration. We help investors build relationships with all levels of government and across supply chains.

By working with us, you don’t just get a list of services; you get a single point of contact – a champion – who will accompany you from research to shovel and beyond.

A D: How does doing business in Ontario compare to doing business in the United States from a tax and financial standpoint?

Odette : We are extremely competitive in terms of tax and overall business costs. Reports like the one from KPMG 2016 Competitive alternatives show that Canada has the lowest business costs in the G7. Further analysis of these numbers shows an even greater benefit specifically for the province of Ontario. The combined federal / Ontario general corporate income tax rate is 12% lower than the U.S. average. In addition, health care costs for employers in the United States can be three times higher than in Ontario. And perhaps most notably, we have an R&D cost advantage of almost 28% over the United States.

With everything under “one tent”, our corporate concierge services provide personalized information and intelligence on taxes, regulations, incentives and immigration. A D: With Ontario being the most populous province in Canada, what labor / education and training benefits does it offer to businesses that choose to locate in the province?

Odette : Statistically, 67 percent of adults in Ontario have a post-secondary credential, higher than any other OECD country. Our 44 colleges and universities ensure that graduates have the skills and knowledge to excel in their chosen field. The province produces approximately 40,000 STEM graduates per year, plus thousands more with masters and doctorates in a wide range of fields.

The world takes note of our world-class educational institutions such as the University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and Western University. But what I think is really unique is that academia does not operate in isolation from industry. They work together to identify potential skills gaps to develop education and training programs that prepare workers for the new era of advanced manufacturing.

A D: Are particular sectors targeted for investment? Automotive, ICT, life sciences, others? Are there specific incentives offered to businesses in these sectors?

Odette : As IT continues to converge across all traditional industries, we sometimes find ourselves talking about a knowledge-based economy. For example, we can no longer talk about the automobile without including computers. As we herald a new era of connected, self-driving and electric cars, it’s less about rubber and steel than advanced lightweight, high-strength materials combined with cutting-edge vehicle intelligence. And because we have the second largest IT cluster in North America, we continue to thrive. This is why we like to say that we are “Inspired by history, but not tied to it”.

However, the quick answer to the question is that we have strengths in automotive, aerospace, clean tech, fintech, food and beverage manufacturing, automation, and robotics, life sciences and ICT. We have too many incentives to list here, but yes, we’ve based them specifically on each industry, in addition to geographic locations and unique business types.

The province produces approximately 40,000 STEM graduates per year, plus thousands more with masters and doctorates in a wide range of fields. A D: What resources are available for research and development?

Odette : Ontario is where industry, academia, research centers, incubators, accelerators and government work together to quickly bring world-changing concepts and ideas to market. It is truly an innovation ecosystem like no other. When investors see the number of top companies researching here, they are always surprised.

For example, GM chose to partner with the University of Waterloo to develop its next generation of self-driving cars rather than strictly using Silicon Valley. The 2017 Ford GT, an engineering masterpiece, was designed and built here. Johnson & Johnson’s Innovation launched its first JLABS incubator outside of the United States in downtown Toronto. And IBM Watson has partnered with the University Health Network in Toronto to fight Parkinson’s disease. The list goes on: Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, GE, AMD, Cisco, SAP, Xerox, Oracle, Google, Ericsson, Huawei, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer are just a few of the others.

To encourage innovation, we have the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program. Combined with various other provincial R&D programs, this can reduce after-tax costs by about 40-60%.

A D: Are SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) encouraged to invest in Ontario?

Odette : Absoutely. It is an ideal place for SMEs to connect to new and innovative supply chains such as those being forged in the high-tech automotive and fintech sectors. Innovation never sleeps; the small businesses of yesterday are the big players of tomorrow. And with the advent of artificial intelligence solutions that weren’t even possible just a few years ago, the growth trajectory of truly innovative and collaborative businesses will be nothing short of staggering. And there are few places in the world where this can happen outside of Ontario.


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