Leveraging Immigrant Talent for Business Development

Clarence Lochead of Hire Immigrants Ottawa examines how immigration furthers economic development objectives in Ottawa.

By Clarence Lochhead, Senior Manager, Policy and Research, Hire Immigrants Ottawa, Ottawa Business Journal

So I recently purchased an environmentally friendly humidifier for my home – called the Rumidifier – you may have heard of it. It’s a great innovation, requires no energy to run, and it works really well. What’s that got to do with immigration and business development you say? Well, it turns out that the Rumidifier was developed by a local immigrant entrepreneur. It’s a terrific success story, and one that illustrates how the skills and talents of newcomers can lead to exciting new Ottawa based business ventures, creating jobs and growing the region’s economic base.

To be sure, business development objectives are at the forefront of local efforts to ensure continued prosperity in the Nation’s Capital. Invest Ottawa for example, is leading the way with innovative programs and resources that promote and support entrepreneurialism, investment and business growth in the capital region. With downsizing and adjustments in the federal public service, this focus is both timely and welcomed.

Along with this focus on growth and diversification, there is a widely held view in Ottawa that immigrants will play an important, perhaps even critical role in the future success of the city. The Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) for instance, tells us that “successful attraction, settlement, and integration of immigrants is essential for Ottawa’s future prosperity and vitality.”

So is there a relationship between immigration and the broad objectives of economic growth and diversification? Can immigrant talent be leveraged to advance and optimize Ottawa’s business development objectives?

I’d like to suggest a few of the ways in which immigration already furthers economic development objectives in Ottawa. As a starting point, I’ll refer to some work recently produced by the International Economic Development Council(IEDC), which is the world’s largest membership organization of economic development professionals. Last July, the IECD released a report outlining four ways in which immigration furthers economic development objectives: by contributing to economic expansion; by fueling STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries; by leading to immigrant owned businesses; and by supplementing the labour force in critical ways.

Let’s look at each of these in turn and see how it relates to the situation in Ottawa. Bear with me as I take you through a few numbers.

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