Today, more than ever before, Canadian businesses are faced with unprecedented global competition and technology that changes, improves, or becomes obsolete overnight. This changing landscape has increased the importance of innovation, commercialization and partnerships.
All levels of government, businesses, entrepreneurs, post-secondary institutions and not-for-profit organizations should be encouraged to realize the benefits of working collaboratively to improve productivity, create jobs, and ensure the economic prosperity of this country.
This is especially important for the food and beverage processing industry, which is the largest manufacturing employer in Ontario. Our Government wants to interact with these companies, which is why I met with food and beverage stakeholders in Belleville, Leamington, and Toronto, where key southern Ontario industry clusters are located. A common theme in these meetings was a desire to enter new markets through exporting.
I’d like to highlight that our Government is actively pursuing new trade and investment opportunities to provide Canadians with access, on preferred terms, to the largest, most dynamic and fastest growing economies and regions in the world. Altogether, Canada currently has 20 free-trade initiatives underway covering 76 countries.
The recently announced Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement will provide duty-free access for almost all agricultural and agri-food products, including beef, fuskins, pork, food preparations, soybeans, backed goods, wine and spirits, navy beans, adzuki beans and white pea beans.
The regional agency I lead, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (or FedDev Ontario), has also been investing in the food and beverage industry since its creation in 2009.
This includes support for more than 180 food and beverage processing-related projects, representing a total investment of more than $46 million. For many of these projects, the Agency has worked with partners such as the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Yves Landry Foundation and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to help food and beverage manufacturers with training, technology, productivity and export opportunities.
For example, through the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ Smart Prosperity Now Program, Steeped Fine Loose Teas & Accessories Inc. in Ancaster automated its loose leaf tea mixing and processing activities. This enabled the company to keep up with increasing demand, as well as improve the consistency and shelf life of its products. This company was started in 2006 at a small scale and it quickly grew. It appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2012 and in 2013 was ranked No. 27 on PROFIT 500’s list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies and named the No. 1 Industry Leader in the Food Processing and Distribution Sector.
Our Government wants to see more of these successes. FedDev Ontario will continue to make investments in southern Ontario businesses through new Southern Ontario Prosperity Initiatives that provide more than $530 million over five years starting in April 2014:
These initiatives target areas identified as key drivers of productivity for our businesses, such as investments in machinery and equipment, as well as investments in research and development that help lead to commercialization.
In particular, the Investing in Business Growth and Productivity initiative can help food and beverage manufacturers expand into new markets and integrate into global value chains.
In addition, the $200-million Advanced Manufacturing Fund in Ontario will promote the continued growth of Ontario’s advanced manufacturing sector by supporting large-scale, transformative innovation and commercialization activities.
A strong Canada depends on a prosperous southern Ontario that is home to communities that attract investment; highly productive, innovative businesses; and opportunities to expand and diversify markets at home and globally.
As Minister of State for FedDev Ontario, I look forward to seeing all of the possibilities that will come to light as a result of these new opportunities.
For more information, I invite you to visit the Agency’s website at www.FedDevOntario.gc.ca or call the toll-free number at 1-866-593-5505. For more general information on federal business-related services and programs, I encourage you to visit Canada Business Ontario at www.cbo-eco.gc.ca.
The Honourable Gary Goodyear, P.C., M.P., is Ontario’s Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario).