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Ontario Leads in Life Sciences, ICT, and Automotive Innovation

A favorable business climate, highly educated work force, and spirit of innovation are helping Ontario advance its economy.

Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble (June/July 10)
What will the next big thing be? The product that takes the world by storm and earns a handsome return for the company that created it? It may not have been invented yet - but it will be soon.

It makes sense for growth-oriented companies to plant themselves where innovation thrives, where great minds have converged, and where the business climate encourages research and development. The Canadian province of Ontario is working hard to be that kind of place, according to Sandra Pupatello, the province's minister of economic development and trade. "We've had a lot of companies, especially multinational companies, that are seeing the benefit of using Ontario to expand or initiate their business," she says.

Green energy, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and biotechnology, and information and communications technology all feed on Ontario's R&D. They thrive partly because of the province's talented work force and scientific community, and because of a tax structure that slashes companies' R&D costs.

Profitable Growth
Consider Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), a leading designer and manufacturer of computer processors. It's not surprising that this silicon-based business is located in California's Silicon Valley. But the company is investing significant resources in its Markham, Ontario facility as it develops next generation microprocessors.

AMD's Canadian operations will merge high-performance computer and graphics processors onto a single silicon die. The company aims to break new ground in performance, use less power, and enable breakthroughs in a wide range of computing devices. And it's counting on Canadian brains to help make that happen, pumping more than $370 million into its Markham operations over five years and adding approximately 100 jobs to its 500-strong work force.

A $56 million contribution from Ontario is easing the way. At the company's expansion announcement last February, AMD President and CEO Dirk Meyer lauded the province's commitment to innovations that promise to make Markham a hub for graphics and media processing. "Ontario's grant will help preserve jobs in the critical technology sector, strengthen the regional innovation economy, and make this next era of computing a reality," Meyer said.

The provincial government is also helping Open Text Corporation, Canada's largest independent software company. In March the province announced a $34 million grant through its Next Generation of Jobs Fund, which will serve as part of Open Text's planned five-year investment of $225 million to create nearly 400 high-value jobs at its operations in Waterloo, Richmond Hill, and Ottawa.

P. Thomas Jenkins, Open Text's executive chairman and chief strategy officer, explained the province's importance in the company's long-term growth strategy. "The digital media revolution is creating tremendous opportunities for growth and innovation," Jenkins said at the expansion announcement. "The province offers the talent and opportunities for collaboration that are essential to achieving our business goals."

Manufacturing plays a key role in the Ontario economy, according to an April announcement by NOVA Chemicals. The company is pumping $78 million in upgrades into its Mooretown plant, where it makes low-density polyethylene. The company is also investing in its Corunna, Ontario plant. The growth is part of $600 million in investments in NOVA's Ontario operations over the last five years. A $10 million equipment loan through Ontario's Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy is supporting the company. The result: NOVA will boost productivity by 50 percent, while Ontario retains 160 manufacturing jobs at a time when many places are watching manufacturing employment dry up.

Getting Greener
In January a consortium led by Samsung C&T and the Korea Electric Power Corporation announced a green energy investment of $7 billion. The project will triple Ontario's output from renewable wind and solar sources and generate thousands of new green energy jobs to build and operate renewable generation plants. Manufacturing plants providing wind and solar technology will also benefit and add more than 1,400 new manufacturing and related jobs.

In April Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the Green Energy Act, the largest green energy initiative in Canada. "Ontario has a vision for green energy - we will be a North American leader," McGuinty said. "We have practical, aggressive policies to secure green energy generation, research, and manufacturing which will create good jobs in a growing industry."

Enacted last year, the program will create up to 50,000 new green energy jobs. Some 20,000 of those jobs are tied to projects McGuinty highlighted this spring, supported by the act's feed-in tariff program. The province approved 184 new contracts for major green-energy projects, in addition to more than 500 mid-sized projects already approved. The new contracts will generate more than 2,500 megawatts of clean power, enough to support 600,000 homes. A domestic content requirement will boost Ontario's green energy sector.

"We've taken huge steps forward in green energy and green in general," Pupatello says. Ontario aims to eliminate coal power by 2014, signifying economic opportunities for companies that conserve and generate clean energy.
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