Jobs and prosperity flow in part from entrepreneurs with ideas about how to do something better. They bring something new into a market and create jobs from research and innovation. When economists connect innovation to jobs to prosperity, the numbers are personal and the stories unique. We will regularly introduce some of the many and varied innovators doing business in Mississauga. Words by Phill Feltham
Mississauga business owner, Robert Allen loves adding flavour to foods. For 40 years he worked for various companies in the U.S. and Canada providing ingredients for all food and beverage products such as chocolate bars and soft drinks. However, like many retirees, 71- year-old Robert couldn’t just sit back and relax, so despite the rocky economy, he followed his passion and opened his still-yet-to-be-named flavoring enterprise.
“We recently had our first export order with no domestic sales as of yet,” he says.“And we won’t see any financial rewards anytime soon, but it’s just nice to be working at what you enjoy doing.”
But if living your dream doesn’t reliably promise any income, then that is an unsustainable option for any company investing in this high risk environment.
“You have to innovate or die,” says Brad Bourne, President of The Firan Technology Group (FTG). “We had to keep moving forward in our business or we would have not have been able to overcome the drop in demand we experienced in the last 18 months.”
The electronics manufacturer located in Mississauga grew roughly 28% in 2010 because management continued to push ahead with their growth in spite of the state of the economy. “We compete in a global market and not all economies are down at the same time so there is never a period when a company can just sit back and relax, or some other company from somewhere in the world will steal your customers.”
The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada reports that the number of business insolvencies has dropped 18.5 percent nationwide between August 2009 and August 2010. In Mississauga the number of total businesses has increased from 53,523 in mid-year 2009 to 54,497 by end-of-year 2009.
To help prompt entrepreneurs to embrace an innovative mindset, Mississauga’s Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) Centre partnered with the Mississauga Board Of Trade (MBOT) in October to host the Innovation2Growing Globally conference.
“The purpose of the conference was to address the current issues plaguing the Canadian economy,” says Pam Banks, the Commercialization Director with the RIC Centre. “It explored how innovation and creativity leads to business growth and international trade. The desired outcome is a strengthened relationship with the manufacturing sector to open opportunities for the development and adoption of innovation.”
Sheldon Leiba, the President and CEO of the Mississauga Board of Trade says that: “The forum was successful in informing and engaging the business community to think more strategically about their business and to better position themselves for growth.”
The conference challenged the 200-plus attendees to examine their current business practices and strategize on ways to innovate. John Balodis, President of Procurement Management Group and an attendee at the conference, says: “After listening to the speakers, it is clear that innovation doesn’t just happen, upper management has to create an internal process that supports innovation throughout a company.”
However, Balodis acknowledged that integrating innovation into everyday practices won’t be so easy. “It takes a lot of time, money and a culture that actively promotes innovation.”
Pam Banks adds that “Start-up companies need connections to larger industry, and established companies need an opportunity for a ‘first look’ at new technology to stimulate process innovation.” (Visit www.ontarioexports.com for more information.)
At Innovation2Grow Globally, Brent Matthews, the director of Canadian operations for Yaskawa Motoman Robotics Canada says he attended “to get a general understanding from local manufacturing companies about their thoughts on the future of the Canadian economy.”
Matthews also introduced the dual-arm robot to manufacturing company representatives in attendance. The new product performs tasks which include assembly, handling, machine tending, packaging and part transfer applications. “Research and feedback from our customers and the manufacturing industry worldwide was used to develop this robot.”
Research, innovation, technology are the leading priorities for these and other Mississauga entrepreneurs. And provided their companies have a means of dealing with the daunting rise of the Canadian dollar, then prospects appear positive for more upbeat, even exciting export manufacturer stories in Mississauga.
The RIC Centre works with Sheridan College, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga Board of Trade and the City of Mississauga Economic Development Department. Entrepreneurs who want help developing their business plan or an evaluation on their business plan can visit the RIC Centre, 701 – 77 City Centre Drive call 905.273.3530 or go to www.riccentre.com.