At the request of The Conference Board of Canada, London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco addressed its 2003 Innovation Conference in Toronto. The text of her Tuesday, April 8, 2003 remarks appear following. London - the City of Choice
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to be here with you today. I am particularly proud to represent London at this flagship event hosted by The Conference Board of Canada, because ours is a great city. It is a community where working together as people and as partners has proven to be an incredible formula for success.
By implementing some simple strategies of collaboration, our city has grown to be a fine Canadian example of ‘doing the right things to get the job done’. By forging strategic alliances, our businesses, institutions and organizations are prospering and I am confident we will continue to flourish.
We are thrilled The Conference Board has identified that London will be one of Canada’s fastest growing economies this year. This special recognition helps to put London on the map, as a city where terrific things are happening. And, it’s my privilege to highlight how symbiotic relationships in our community have fostered high levels of innovation and achievement among our educational institutions, industry and government. But first, I want to introduce you to London, Ontario - a great place to live, to work, to visit and to share with family.
As the regional hub for Southwestern Ontario, with a population of 331,000 people, we are the 10th largest city in Canada and growing stronger every day. Our strategic plan is clear, with economic development and quality of life as the two underlying principles to every action we take.
Our city is noted for its economic diversity, and we are the Canadian headquarters or major production centre for such prominent companies as 3M Canada, EllisDon, Kellogg Canada, Siemens Electric, Trojan Technologies, Keiper Canada and Magee Reiter Automotive.
We are also proud to be home to hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses. To this end, London was recently named one of the Top 3 Home-Based Business-Friendly Communities in Canada. This prestigious national award reinforces our municipality’s ongoing efforts to develop friendly bylaws and other initiatives to foster home-based business growth.
London is a city on the move with a solid direction for the future! We are located just two hours from Detroit and Toronto, on the major highway linking Canada's industrial heartland to the American Northeast, and within an 8-hour drive of over 150-million people.
Our revamped Via Rail station is the 4th busiest in the country and positions us for enhanced tourist and transportation services to support our growing economic opportunities. And, each week, more than 70 flights fly from London=s International Airport, where an $18-million terminal expansion is set for completion in August.
As part of our downtown revitalization strategy, we recently celebrated the openings of our beautiful new Central Library and the spectacular 10-thousand seat entertainment sports complex called the John Labatt Centre. The Library plays a pivotal role in the lives of Londoners, while the launch of the JLC marks an age of actualization for our community. London has finally come into its own and is now capable of attracting the most famous and formidable entertainers and sports celebrities to our thriving community.
Often referred to as The Forest City, London is also a beautiful community with a multitude of trees, many parks and pathways and the river Thames running through it. We value the rich tapestry of arts, culture and heritage, where one can attend live performances at the Grand Theatre, symphonic experiences at Orchestra London and thought-provoking visits to Museum London throughout the year. And during the summer, The Forest City comes alive with festivals and music, with tourism bringing more than $400-million in annual spending to the city.
In London, we aspire to great things, and this past year truly demonstrated our community’s capacity for success. We proudly witnessed unprecedented growth in several sectors. To begin, 2002 was a record year for building in the city, with permits topping the $600-million mark, shattering the previous record set back in 1988-89 period. At the same time, home sales sky-rocketed, not only setting a year-end record, but achieving the best real estate sales year ever.
Open for business
And, thanks to the proactive work of our dynamic London Economic Development Corporation, we enjoyed the most economic investment ever, with many new companies, expansions to several existing businesses, and the creation of thousands of new jobs. To give you a flavour of the diversity of our economy and community, let me highlight some of our newest companies.
In 2000-2001, we welcomed:
Teletech, 850 employees
Keiper Ltd., 350 employees
Magee Rieter Automotive Systems, 150 employees
Clinidata Corporation, 50 employees
Veri Trucking, 30 employees
In 2002-2003, we welcomed:
Stream International, 900 employees
Brose North America, 350 employees
Intier Automotive, 175 employees
Market Strategies, 150 employees
Confidential Automotive Company, 120 employees
Starlim-Sterner, 100 employees
Copperweld Automotive Group, 20 employees
Utilismart Corp, 15 employees
It’s very encouraging to note LEDC’s focused approach over the past few years has resulted in the creation of about 3200 new jobs for our community, with a total new investment of $327-million. LEDC’s success is based on building strong partnerships with centres of influence, both within the City and target markets abroad. And, having serviced land for new industry available through our Industrial Land Strategy has been and continues to be critical to London’s competitive success.
There are several key reasons why companies come and stay in London and the LEDC team is very adept at promoting the many attributes of our great city. Working in conjunction with our City team, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism London, the LEDC has produced phenomenal results by ensuring potential investors realize London is ‘the best place to be’ for so many reasons. Investors can’t help but get excited when they know the facts!
Competitive advantages as a business location
London has the people and the educational institutions. As home to both The University of Western Ontario, one of Canada’s finest and oldest universities and Fanshawe College, one of the largest commercial colleges in the country, we have a highly-trained labour force with an impressive reputation for efficiency, stability and loyalty. As a result, local businesses have easy access to these highly qualified graduates and specialized skills training programs.
At the same time, the innovative approach to business education taught at our world renowned Ivey School of Business has produced some of the most sought-after graduates across North America. And, the City of London has demonstrated its belief in the important role of these Institutions by investing $10-million in the university and $5-million at Fanshawe to assist in their building expansions.
In particular, the University is making its mark. Recently, Maclean’s Magazine named our University #3 out of 15 institutions in the medical/doctoral category in the magazine’s annual university rankings. By tying McGill University for this honour in 2002, Western achieved its highest ranking to date. The Globe and Mail also conducted an online survey of Canadian university students at 29 major universities in the country and Western earned the proud ranking of #2, second only to Queen’s, in overall student satisfaction. I’ll have more to say about both UWO and Fanshawe later on.
London also has the healthcare and research institutions. As the regional centre for Southwestern Ontario, London has earned a strong reputation as a leader in these fields. Our success culminates in the great work achieved across our network of institutions including, London Health Sciences Centre, Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, Parkwood Hospital, the Robarts Research Institute and the Lawson Health Research Institute.
London has the infrastructure - ‘we are open for business’. In an effort to grow our city responsibly, two years ago we adopted a vigorous and proactive Industrial Land Development Strategy to service and develop enough choice land to make it attractive for investors to choose London as the Canadian site for their operations. This long-term strategy will see more than $65-million invested over 20 years to prepare and maintain an inventory of industrial land parks, which are ready for companies to set up shop, quickly and efficiently.
Strategic Thinking and partnerships
We have also developed innovative strategies to identify and support existing clusters or groups of industries. Once we recognize the existing trends, then we can provide the infrastructure and environment critical to their success. To this end, the LEDC has systematically identified these emerging business clusters and provided support to create jobs and wealth in an array of areas. The business clusters are:
Through this process, LEDC also facilitated the creation of Advisory Councils for Life Sciences, Information Technology and Advanced Manufacturing. This umbrella group, known as TechAlliance, provides a means to accomplish collectively what individual groups are unable to achieve alone. TechAlliance supports growth through the development of partnerships, the identification of needs and challenges, and the discovery of new opportunities.
Innovation and teamwork also helped the London Chamber of Commerce and the LEDC to establish Synergies. This networking initiative provides a great forum for businesses and organizations to share ideas, to identify specific business development issues, and to recommend solutions.
An important partner with the LEDC is Fanshawe College, which offers more than 100 career diploma programs. The skilled workforce created by these programs is fuel to a growing area economy. An astounding 82% of Fanshawe’s graduates remain in the region, making the College a major contributor to economic development in the London area.
In addition to Fanshawe’s comprehensive programming allowing graduates to be trained in career areas such as health, business, communications and technology, it also trains the region’s skilled trade workers. In fact, Fanshawe’s proven record of successful training and apprenticeship programs has led to a recent decision by the Province to invest $1-million to modernize Fanshawe’s training facilities in the areas of Motive Power, Manufacturing and Hospitality. And, in cooperation with the construction industry and labour organizations, the College has developed a unique on-line blueprint reading program for construction trades people, which will be marketed across Canada in coming weeks.
Future directions for the College include applied degree programs. The Province has recently given Fanshawe the opportunity to offer an applied degree in Integrated Land Planning Technologies and up next it’s expected to announce a new applied program in biotechnology. This area continues to be a stronghold for London. Last year, we moved ahead with growing distinction in the life sciences sector, when we opened our $10-million Biotechnology Commercialization Centre.
With three-way funding from the Province, the City and the University, it’s the first of its kind in Ontario, marking the evolution of London’s identity as a biotech cluster. We are the first municipality to actually fund such a project, so the Biotech Centre serves as a tangible example of how public partners can work together to advance scientific discovery.
This Centre provides a rich environment for aspiring high technology enterprises to flourish long enough to become self-sufficient businesses. As a result, we will be able to retain and attract the best and brightest minds in this field, while at the same time building venture capital investments.
The Biotech Centre, which is part of Tech Alliance, has a mission to transform revolutionary ideas in medical and related sciences into commercial ventures. Its long term goals include:
Supporting enterprises involving therapeutics, drug development and medical devices
Housing up to 20 enterprises with proprietary technology in these related sciences and graduating up to 8 companies per year, representing 25% of Ontario’s biotech output by the year 2010, creating up to 10,000 jobs within a 10 year period.
We are confident its long term goals will be reached with the provision of physical space, business management and technical support.
Innovation at National Research Park
Another coup for our city is the attraction of the National Research Council’s Integrated Manufacturing Technology Institute (IMTI). In the mid-90s, the Federal Government chose London, as the ideal location to build this state-of-the art facility, which operates the most sophisticated virtual reality technology in North America.
The IMTI is located at the National Research Park at the University and was built in London to be close to the heart of Canadian manufacturing. With our advanced information technology and communications infrastructure, we are often referred to as one of the most connected cities in Canada. Several major projects have been performed by IMTI and have positively impacted business in London in the last five years. For instance, a virtual model of the design of the John Labatt Centre and surrounding downtown area was developed in our Virtual Environment Technologies Centre.
The VET Centre was also used to assist General Dynamics, formerly GM Defense, to develop its next generation Light Armoured Vehicle for the US military. This project resulted in a major contract of $6-billion to the London Company, with a great impact on the supply chain in the region.
In addition, IMTI initiated a major multi-year and multi-client project with fourteen organizations including, UWO, a number of small and medium-sized businesses, large companies and, Centres of Excellence, to perform joint research on precision and freeform fabrication. Numerous projects involve Canadian industries and universities and international partners in Europe, USA and Asia.
This cooperative process, from the beginning to the end of a project, to develop a product or equipment, is based upon the ability to re-engineer the design and manufacturing processes, share information and validate the concept in a virtual or digital environment. This new technology area is giving Canadian companies the advantage they need to develop high quality products faster, because they can not only validate the product under specific conditions, but they can virtually manufacture these products.
It is amazing to realize companies can simulate manufacturing processes, detect design flaws and visualize the simulation results and scientific data on computers in different locations simultaneously. The London Institute is one of four NRC Manufacturing Institutes dedicated to promoting economic growth through the development and application of scientific and technological knowledge. We are very proud to be one of the chosen sites because it has stimulated so much creative collaboration within our manufacturing sector.
New frontiers in medical and health care Research
And, when we speak of collaboration, London’s incredible research facilities immediately come to mind. We are home to the Robarts Research Institute and the Lawson Health Research Institute - both noted for their work and their tremendous success in attracting Provincial and Federal research grants.
Robarts is at the vanguard of innovative medical science from genomics and stem cell biology to advanced medical imaging technologies. With its new $29.5-million expansion underway, the new design fosters inter-disciplinary cross-over work critical to advancing science in the combined fields of imaging, stem cell biology and clinical trials. And, Robarts recently sold its multi-million dollar spin-off company ‘Enhanced Vision Systems’ to GE Medical, a move that is keeping other good jobs in London.
At the same time, innovation continues to push the envelope of cutting-edge technology at the Lawson Health Research Institute. LHRI has joined with LHSC in introducing the Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics Centre, otherwise known as CSTAR. Its latest accomplishment is a Canadian First for urological surgery with the ZEUS robot, and the Centre has six other research projects currently underway. Lawson has also partnered with other London institutions to build a city-wide Innovarium project. This joint initiative will establish high-tech animal care facilities to suit the needs of all local researchers.
Elsewhere, one of Lawson’s projects has resulted in a deal with Kenya to begin looking at the benefits of ‘good bacteria’ in combating HIV, AIDS and other related diseases. The potential for this project and its benefit to the African people is substantial. And, London received the PET/CT scanner - the first of its kind in Canada. This scanner will be directly used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and heart disease.
London may one day also be recognized for further advances resulting from our current initiatives. We are already proud to be known around the world as the birthplace of insulin and home to both Banting House and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
Western's far-reaching impact and influence
And, I believe The University of Western Ontario, one of Canada’s top 10 research universities, is definitely a major factor in our ability to attract new economic investment. It is front and centre in boosting our reputation in education, research and health care. Here are just a few examples.
To begin, through a Research Program Team, Western participates in several major institutional granting programs including:
Canada Foundation for Innovation
Ontario Innovation Trust
Ontario Research & Development Challenge Fund
Premier’s Research Excellence Awards and
Canada Research Chairs Programs
In the proposals submitted to these funding bodies, concerted efforts are made to develop integrated collaborations that stretch to academic, government and private sector partners across the province, the country and the world.
For instance, UWO currently has 31 Canada Research Chairs, and is expected to receive more than 70 of these by 2005. The Chairs Program is part of an overall Government of Canada plan to promote leading-edge research and creativity in attracting the best research minds in the world to Canadian universities. As a result, London has attracted top researchers from the U.S., China, Germany and France.
And, our global reach continues as university researchers establish strategic peer-to-peer alliances with other leading scientists. Some examples of exciting international projects include:
Working with the German Aerospace Institute on heat flow behaviour through thin membranes during re-entry from space
Joining with researchers around the world on X-ray and DNA analysis of ancient skeletons unearthed in Peru
Working with the Indian Institute of Technology on new methods of environmental recovery
Another pioneering milestone at Western is the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel. Since first opening in 1965, the wind tunnel has tested the viability of structures of major buildings, towers, bridges, and pipelines built throughout the world.
Western is also a key player in SHARCNET (Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network) - a $42-million project to establish a world-leading institute focused on developing computer tools for research in the fields of science, engineering and business. This project is a joint venture involving several universities and colleges. And, the three SHARCNET sites in Ontario at Western, McMaster and Guelph are helping to create a facility that exceeds many operated by some of the best research institutions in the world, including Cambridge and Princeton.
Key to Success - community enthusiasm and teamwork
Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time providing examples of local success stories, which demonstrate the value of community partnerships. It’s clear, in London we believe in working together to find synergies and areas of common interest. It’s also evident that we have focused energy on our strengths to really grow and develop to the mutual benefit of all concerned. As a result of partnerships, we’ve witnessed amazing advances in a variety of fields including, health, research, technology and economic development. Indeed strategic alliances are key factors in our many successes.
It may seem simple, but not all communities approach opportunities with the same level of cooperation and enthusiasm, as we do in London. As Mayor, I am often called upon to provide letters of support, to meet with CEOs of different companies or to sell the benefits of London to potential investors worldwide. Together, we have worked hard to establish a solid foundation on which to sell London, as the ‘City of Choice’. As a result, confidence is building each and every day, invigorating our citizens to get involved in shaping our future.
You can do the same in your communities. I encourage you to look at the big picture, to find common ground, to share your vision for the future with your cohorts. Find your areas of expertise and build on them. Together you will be stronger.
By implementing this philosophy of teamwork, London has made significant strides in recent times. Never has our community been poised to accomplish so much. Now truly is London’s time to shine as one of Canada’s brightest cities and we look forward to leading the way in making Canada the best it can be. Thanks for the opportunity to address you on this very exciting topic.