What's In It For Us? Why the Consider Canada City Alliance is focused on China

By Bruce Lazenby

As John Ivison’s excellent three-part series this week in the National Post points out, “Canada and China have never had it so good” and “China wants a lot of what Canada has to offer”. That’s why Invest Ottawa is a founding member of the Consider Canada City Alliance Inc. Along with 10 other top Canadian cities, we continue our focus on Chinese trade and investment opportunities for our companies.

What’s In It For Us? Well, last May, a 20-member Consider Canada City Alliance delegation travelled across most of China, visiting three cities in five days. Nearly 300 people and 200 Chinese companies attended our China-Canada Investment Opportunities seminars.

Economic development executives from Consider Canada City Alliance members held more than 160 on-on-one meetings with Chinese companies. We had briefings from the Canadian Embassy in Beijing and our Consulates in Chongqing and Guangzhou that provided us with up to the minute intelligence on each region.

In Ottawa, direct results from those China meetings included the ZDG Ottawa International Incubation Centre – a partnership between Invest Ottawa and ZDG, a state-owned enterprise. The $11 billion Zhongguancun Development Group (ZDG) has chosen Ottawa as its second site in North America, and first in Canada, to provide funding and support to technology startups wishing to enter the rapidly growing Chinese market. With guidance from Invest Ottawa to identify local startups for funding, the ZDG Ottawa International Incubation Centre will help finance China-based R&D, marketing and office expansion.

When we announced the ZDG Ottawa International Incubation Centre at a December press conference, I said that, “We’re treating this as a very ambitious start-up enterprise in its own right. ZDG has a plan to invest up to $1.5 billion worldwide over the next five years, and we see today’s $10 million announcement as a starting point for Ottawa.” I could have added, “It’s also an important starting point for Canada, validating the potential of our knowledge-based industries to help solve some of China’s most pressing problems, and create wealth and jobs by tapping into one of the world’s fastest growing markets.

ZDG targets technology sectors including but not limited to: information and communications Technology, life sciences, new energy and new materials.

To underline the opportunity for Canada, most of us know that China is the world’s number one market for commodities such as nickel, copper and lead, and also number one for heavy manufactured goods such as automobiles.

What many don’t know is that this year China will also become the globe’s largest market for high tech devices like smartphones. And I'm sure they could use several million of the extraordinarily well-received Blackberry Z10s, developed with heavy contributions from development labs in both Waterloo and Ottawa.

As it prepares to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in as little as four years, China is reaching out to leading centres of knowledge-based industry to help build its prosperity. Many of those centres are in Canada’s great cities, and working together, our job as economic development executives is now to capitalize on this enormous potential. Stay tuned for more results from the Consider Canada City Alliance.

Bruce Lazenby is President and CEO of Invest Ottawa