Area Development’s first Canadian FDI Forum held last November (prior to the U.S. presidential election) in Toronto brought EDOs from across Canada together to better understand the perspectives from North American site selectors, industry leaders, and location experts on why companies choose Canada as an investment location. In partnership with the CAI Global Group, a Canadian site selection firm, the event brought over 75 Canadian EDOs together to listen, exchange ideas, and learn how to strategically position and market Canada, and their respective jurisdictions, in order to attract more American and international investment.
The atmosphere during these two days was remarkable as EDOs from across the country unified to discuss a common front on Canada’s U.S. and international investment attraction strategies. Stephen Lund, Chief Executive Officer of Opportunities New Brunswick noted, “What’s good for Ontario and Manitoba, is good for New Brunswick.”
A competitive landscape from a North American perspective was provided including a review of the market share of inward FDI for Canada and how it falls in relation to Mexico, which has surpassed Canada in greenfield investments. The effect of the FDI dynamic from a supply-chain perspective was a lead-in presentation to the case history of the current auto industry in Canada. Decision drivers such as utilities, transportation, and other operating cost factors were discussed, and the auto sector (“computer on wheels” as described by speaker Ray Tanguay, named Canada’s government “car czar”) was reflected upon highlighting the current and future software-based requirements and opportunities of this industry.
Following a networking lunch, the highlight of the afternoon was the site selector and Canadian executive panels on selling Canada to international investors. The site selectors shared their perspectives on what key factors they believe drive the corporate site selection process from their experiences, and which irritants are most often discussed by potential investors. This exchange was followed by an executive panel made up of presidents of Canadian subsidiaries of foreign multinationals from across Canada who shared their experiences, challenges, and strategies in promoting their Canadian subsidiaries to their foreign parent companies. “Positioning Canadian champions at head offices is so important” according to Mark Henderson, chairman of Ericsson Canada. “They’re ambassadors pitching our capabilities here,” he noted.
The following morning the participants had the opportunity to listen to best practices from provincial representatives on their respective and shared roles in battling these challenges. Clare Barnett, VP of Investment Growth at the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth also presented the province’s new Certified Site Program that offers pre-qualified properties for investors. Ms. Barnett also shared her team’s new internal guiding principal, which is simply, “Be awesome. Period.” Investissement Quebec’s VP of International Affairs, Chantal Malo, shared examples of how Quebec is focused on anticipating the needs of its investors and on working closely with the regions.
With regard to the challenges discussed during the site selectors’ panel, Ms. Malo shared a recent experience of how Quebec-based subsidiaries such as Bridgestone in Joliette, Quebec, have successfully collaborated with their unions, using Bridgestone’s recent $312 million announcement protecting jobs for the next 20 years, as an example. For the Maritimes, Stephen Lund elaborated on how his team focuses on the importance of building relationships with the investors, sharing the client’s experience with them, and providing discretionary solutions suited to the needs of the investor.
The U.S. site selectors present at the event left with a much better appreciation of Canada’s workforce and its capabilities. The open question and answer period with all of the experts allowed the participants to ask targeted questions. To conclude the Forum, and as food for thought for the participants, presentations were given by CAI on how Canadian incentive programs compete with those in the U.S. and globally, and how Canadian EDOs, and Canada, can maintain a strong value proposition essential to compete in today’s global environment.
CAI and Quebec International wrapped up the event with a warm welcome to Quebec City for the 2nd Canadian FDI Forum to be held October 22–24, 2017.