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2001 AGM Speech

Tuesday, February 13, 2001 - 00:00

"Business goes where it's wanted and stays where it's appreciated."

This is a simple credo…but since the formation of the LEDC, we have centred everything we do around that straightforward principle. We work to retain existing businesses in our community and to attract new businesses by showing them that London cares about their success, and that we are willing to put action behind our words.

This afternoon, I would like to tell you about the success we have experienced in 2000 at getting this message out, and take a look into what the future might hold for our city.

But first, let's look at our past. Geographically and historically, London's roots are in agriculture. I was raised on a farm and I still believe it's one of the best business schools there is. So, if I may borrow from a best-selling title…

"Almost everything I know about economic development, I learned on my father's farm."

Here are some of the things he taught me.

Number 1: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Diversity has always been one of London's greatest strengths. Our manufacturing sector is strong and remains our biggest employer. In December, we were pleased to announce the successful completion of many months of work with Keiper, a German manufacturer. Keiper will be building a plant which will produce seating components for the automobile industry and initially, they will provide 300 jobs when production begins in May of 2003. In excess of 600 jobs may be created within three to five years.

We have many reasons to expect that other businesses will now pursue their interest in London, as a result of this announcement. Manufacturing is strong. But it's not all that we have.

At the LEDC, we continue to promote our city's strengths in many sectors and we are particularly interested in assisting growth in the new economy sectors of biotechnology and information technology.

In 2000, LEDC conducted a major survey of the IT sector, which will provide benchmarks to chart future growth. This survey was also helpful as we established a new IT Advisory Council in London, which will promote the industry in and outside of the city, enhance London's attraction and retention of skilled workers, and help us to meet education and training requirements to support the growth of these sectors.

London also continued to distinguish itself as a growing centre for biotechnology. We are now home to almost 40 companies specializing in biotech, medical devices and imaging, pharmaceuticals, and health care products.

The provincial government recognized our strengths in this sector and chose London as one of three sites for a Biotech Incubator. The province and city have each invested $5 million in this exciting initiative.

In London, the current estimate of medical research spending is approximately $85 million a year.

London Health Sciences Centre was awarded over $6 million in grants from the Ontario R & D Challenge Fund and the Ontario Innovation Trust to create the National Centre for Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery.
The Whitaker Foundation awarded $1.4 million to Western to establish a graduate program in biomedical engineering.
Initiatives at the London Regional Cancer Centre to develop tomotherapy, will soon return London to its position of preeminence in radiation technology.
These are just a few of dozens of major grants and announcements for London research institutions and health care providers.

The LEDC has also been working with the biotechnology community in the formation of the Biotech London Council, an umbrella organization that supports and promotes existing biotechnology businesses and works to attract partners and new businesses to the city.

Clearly, we have strengths in many sectors. This economic diversification is critical and helps to shield us from the full impact of sectoral downturns. The recent City of London report on London's economy clearly shows that our strength is in our diversification.

Farm lesson #2: Dad always says, "Don't throw away your old bucket until you're sure the new one holds water." In fact - don't throw it away at all…there's probably another good use for it.

Financial services and the insurance industry have both experienced considerable restructuring in London in recent years. This is still, however, a viable sector. Although we don't expect to be able to attract a head office of the magnitude of Canada Trust or London Life, the legacy of these companies remains.

Both companies, of course, still have many jobs here, but beyond that, there is also a foundation upon which future growth in other sectors can be built. For example…thousands of talented, quality individuals who have worked in this sector, remain in our city. They are not just banking or insurance experts…they are customer service experts. These are highly valued skills in every sector of our economy.

In fact, this well-qualified pool of workers, along with London's advanced communications infrastructure, have helped to place almost 4000 call centre jobs here. TeleTech Holdings opened its new call centre in the former Eaton's store in the Galleria Mall. They started with 300 employees, currently have 550, and could expand to 800 in the next eighteen months.

Lesson #3: Make hay while the sun shines.

The economy, like the weather, runs in cycles. In fair weather, we must prepare for foul. Global and national economies take turns that we cannot control, and if the current period of economic instability continues, London, like all municipalities, may not escape untouched.
That is why diversification is so essential.

In tough times, we will have to work even harder to ensure that companies in London are given every chance to survive. Then, when the sun shines again, we'll be poised to leap back in and embrace the opportunities that will present themselves as the economy expands.

Rule # 4 - There's a long wait between the time we sow seeds and the time we reap the harvest.

Our success with Keiper took months of relationship building and establishing trust. We knocked on their door, we hosted them here, we called them almost daily, we remained flexible in what we had to offer…showing a willingness to give just a little bit more.

Finally, after months of work by many individuals at LEDC and the City, Keiper officials basically could not say no to us. They knew us so well, they liked us and they trusted that the information we were giving to them was accurate. That kind of trust can only be built over time.

It's important to point out here, that it's not just LEDC and City officials who make a difference in these relationships. Hank Vanderlaan of Trojan Technologies called me after the Keiper annoucement to say that when Keiper officials are in town he'd like to host a reception to welcome them. That kind of involvement by business is invaluable.

I must stress the importance of this win for London, because Keiper, we believe, is just the beginning. Keiper officials have already helped us to establish relationships with other parts manufacturers and we are now giving those companies a taste of London persistence.

Our long-term relationships are not just with businesses. Closer to home, we have caught the attention of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, who now recognize that, if they point a company our way, we will serve that company well.

And at Embassies abroad, London is also making its mark. We are on a first-name basis with top-ranking individuals in key countries because we know they can assist us immeasurably in identifying prospects for our sales efforts. We are making certain that they are aware of London, it's strengths, and the opportunities for success that we can provide to their clients.

Right here in London, as part of our retention work, we are also building long-term relationships with existing companies in many sectors. Existing businesses are our lifeblood. They put bread on London tables today, and if they are given the support and assistance they need, they will grow. Small companies that employ 10 or 20 people, can grow to become big companies.

You know, we often bemoan the "loss" in London of some companies such as Canada Trust, London Life, Labatt, and the Blackburn Group. But keep in mind, their purchase by larger companies (and subsequent head office relocation from our city) are the result of one thing….their success. These were little London companies that grew and thrived here and became tremendous national and international success stories. They grew in London because of the quality of the skilled labour pool in our community…a pool that remains here.

Would we like to have kept those head offices in London? Of course! But let's look to the future - let's take a few smaller businesses and grow them. We can show the world that we continue to cultivate a fertile business soil here in London.

What makes London such fertile ground? Well, I might refer you to our brochure, which, by the way, also contains our annual report. In the brochure, and also in the London First brochure, you'll find a list of 10 really good reasons to invest in London.

Our people: A skilled, well-educated workforce

A great location: With 150 million people within a day's drive of here, there is a market for just about any product or service you can imagine

Our transportation infrastructure: including a fabulous airport, and our soon-to-be brand new train station

Our health care facilities: Long a source of pride in London and a key economic factor as well

Our educational institutions: Western, its affiliated Colleges (King's, Huron and Brescia) and Fanshawe College, as well as over 20 private vocational institutions. LEDC is working to keep more of our grads in London

Our research facilities: Not just medical research but IMTI…the Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Institute, which houses the most advanced virtual reality centre of its kind in the world

Our industries: of course…Acting as a magnet for other similar businesses

Cultural diversity: We are part of a global economy. London celebrates the diversity that makes us strong

Our work environment: Short commute times, great networking opportunities and a proactive business community

And finally…our opportunity for living. Affordable housing, great schools and good recreational facilities

So, with so much going for us…2000 was indeed a successful year. The LEDC was able to meet our targets and, indeed, exceed some.

In retention initiatives, the LEDC assisted in retaining over 440 London jobs that were at risk. Our staff visited more than 400 London companies in 2000 and will visit another 400 this year. LEDC helped many of those London companies as they grew and invested over $16 million dollars in our city.

In attraction, we targeted more than 50 new companies in 2000, and we will do that again this year. 50 is a remarkable number when you remember how much effort goes into each one of those targeted companies.

In addition to the companies targeted by LEDC, our staff responded to dozens of inbound investment inquiries, put together 58 distinct and detailed proposals for potential clients, oversaw 29 site selector visits to London, and helped to attract in excess of $190 million in new investment in London.

I'd like to pay tribute to the staff at LEDC and thank them for their work this past year. The remarkable individuals who work with me know their stuff, believe in London, and deliver great care and quality information to our clients. I sleep well at night knowing that, from the most preliminary investor phone call, to closing a deal that will bring hundreds of jobs to our city, Londoners are well served. Angela, Anne, Glenna, Heather, Joe, Lesley, Mario, Steve, Vijai and Wendy - thank you.

Lesson # 5…you can't be successful without a lot of help from your friends:

You know that LEDC, like virtually every other private/public organization, experienced a tumultuous birth and early years. We are grateful to those who have encouraged and assisted us during those years and who understand that progress and change don't happen overnight.

City of London politicians and administration, I believe, made a wise and courageous move when they created the LEDC. Today, there is an unprecedented spirit of cooperation with our partners at the City of London. Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco and our new Council, and City Manager Linda Reed and her staff, have shown in word and deed that they understand the challenges we face daily and they have assisted us whenever called upon to do so.

We also have positive and fruitful relationships with provincial and federal politicians and government departments. And of course, our private sector partners have been most helpful. We look forward to continuing to work closely with The London Chamber of Commerce and many of its members in the year ahead. London First….a joint project of business, labour and all three levels of government will, I hope, be just the beginning of community cooperation as we continue our efforts to market London.

We are in business to serve business and we are indebted to many companies and organizations. I hope you will take some time to read the list on the last page of our annual report where we have recognized many of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to assist the LEDC with our work. In particular, the following companies and organizations have made significant contributions. HRDC London, Aloak, Bell Canada through the Bell Economic Development Fund, William M. Mercer, Internet Solutions Management Group and Hall Associates. As always with lists, we have no doubt missed some important people. Please know your gifts of time and expertise are making our city stronger.

Last, and most importantly on my list of thank yous, the members of the LEDC Board of Directors. Each one of these individuals - business leaders in our community, have invested a great deal of their time and expertise in the LEDC. I am grateful to each one of you and I look forward to your participation and our shared success in the future.

In particular, I would like to thank our founding and outgoing chair, Earl Orser. His calm guidance and encouragement, particularly in the early stages, have been both a source of inspiration for me personally, and for the staff of LEDC. I am grateful for his generosity in sharing his expertise, for his leadership and his friendship. This community has received a great gift from his dedicated guidance.

The year 2000 brought many good things for London. The successes of 2000, will translate into new opportunities in 2001. We are already pursuing these opportunities vigorously and we are making the changes that will be necessary to ensure our organizational and city success.

We have begun to assess our communications and marketing tools and intend to make those a priority in 2001. We were pleased to welcome Lesley Cornelius as Director of Marketing and Communications just a few months ago, and already she is making her mark. With a public/private partnership like ours, it's important that we not only do good work, but that we make sure that people know about it.

The entire staff of LEDC and Board will, I know, continue to work hard to ensure that we are positioned for success.

Our economy is powered by people. We must never forget that economic development is built on relationships. We will continue to nurture those one-on-one relationships with key individuals and organizations in London and around the world.

And, we remain committed to growth….particularly to the growth of those companies that have already invested in London. We want to help them become bigger and stronger.

And finally, farm lesson # 6 - it's been said, and it's true I think, that there is no better demonstration of faith than a person planting seed in a field. The seeds of economic growth that each of you have already planted through your efforts on behalf of LEDC, reflect your faith in the future of London….in making it a better place for all of us to live and work. The harvest, we trust, will be abundant.

This is how I can help.

Ashley Conyngham

Ashley Conyngham

Director, Marketing and Communications

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This is how i can help