BIO 2017 Day 1: Showcasing Mississauga to the World
Today marked the start of BIO International 2017, the largest life sciences conference in North America. It attracts life sciences industry representatives from around the world. Mississauga has attended this conference for many years, starting with Mayor Hazel McCallion.
Why do we attend this conference? Mississauga is home to over 430 life sciences companies, employing roughly 22,000 people. We’re the 2nd largest life sciences cluster in Canada by employment, right behind Toronto. Life Sciences is one of the four main sectors we focus on as a city for economic development, along with Information Communications Technology (ICT), Financial Services, and Advanced Manufacturing. With significant growth projected for the life sciences sector, it is imperative that we are at this conference to support our local Mississauga-based companies, as well as showcase to the world what we have to offer.
Make no mistake: we are in competition with jurisdictions around the globe. The photo below show some of the life sciences clusters located just in the United States.
Mississauga and the wider GTA may be home to over 6 million people and a growing life sciences cluster, but we must do everything we can to ensure that we are noticed on the global stage. I have had the opportunity to travel globally as the ambassador for the city of Mississauga. I know first-hand that when companies are looking to make North American investment, they look first to the United States, not Canada, the Greater Toronto Area or Mississauga. We must do more to showcase what we have to offer to prospective companies in an effort to lure them to make an investment in Mississauga.
Day 1 at BIO 2017 started with a discussion hosted by the Canadian government on doing business in Canada. In attendance were Canadian and international life sciences firms interested in doing business in Canada. It was an intriguing discussion, which focused in large part on the importance that cities and mayors play in attracting new life sciences investment to Canada. In fact, Biotech Canada CEO, Andrew Casey stated, “It’s incredibly important for Mayors to be present to attract life sciences investments.” This is why I attend the BIO convention and why Hazel McCallion attended before me. As Mayors and cities, we are at the front lines of these investments and must demonstrate to prospective companies that we are ready to work with them to settle their business in Mississauga.
I also had the opportunity to attend the TO Health breakfast featuring the Hon. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science in the Ontario government and Mayor Linda Jeffrey of Brampton. Minister Moridi spoke at length about making Ontario a competitive destination for life sciences investment, including the billions that have been invested by venture capital firms. In fact, in 2016, Ontario ranked 4th overall in North America in terms of venture capital investment. Venture capital is essential to start ups and to those new businesses looking to commercialize their technology. In many respects, venture capital investment is an indicator of the success of an innovative economy.
While at breakfast, I had the opportunity to meet with Canada’s Trade Commissioner for San Diego, Frederic Fournier. We talked at length about Canada’s position in this sector, and more specifically, about Mississauga’s strength in life sciences. We agreed to work together to promote Canada, the GTA, and more specifically, Mississauga to companies in California looking to invest in Canada. It’s important to arm our trade commissioners with our information as they meet with many companies that are looking to invest in Canada. Ensuring Mississauga is top of mind when they host these meetings is essential to growing our life sciences ecosystem.
Following a luncheon hosted by Gowlings LLP, we attended a meeting hosted by the Canadian delegation and BioTech Canada. For over 2 hours, provincial and international trade commissioners spoke about the trends in the life sciences sector and how Canada is in a great position to grow our footprint, especially in light of decisions that are being made by the new administration in Washington. We have a great deal of talent, a low cost environment, stability, and access to the European market through the Canadian European Trade Agreement (CETA). We are well-positioned as a country to capitalize on global trends in the life sciences sector. As with Trade Commissioner Fournier, we will also work with our other trade commissioners globally to ensure they know about Mississauga and our life sciences cluster and our life sciences strategy.
Mississauga has a distinct focus on life sciences. In fact, we are the only Ontario municipality to develop a coordinated life sciences strategy. This 5 year strategy will undertake to grow the number of companies in life sciences, as well as expand the diversity of our business base to ensure we are home to companies on the leading edge of the industry. As well, the strategy will help to create a life sciences network in Mississauga and ensure our companies know of each other and collaborate and partner where possible. Mississauga understands the critical importance of this sector to our local economy and have a developed a strategy to maintain the exiting suite of companies and grow our market share. We want to remain leaders in the life sciences sector not only in Canada, but also internationally.
Having attended three BIO Conventions, I can tell you that Mississauga is highly respected and sought after by the life sciences sector. This year, there is also a lot of buzz about our 5-year life sciences strategy and our commitment to the growth of this sector. As Mayor, I feel it is essential that I attend this conference and send a strong signal to the life sciences industry and associated companies that Mississauga is committed to their success.
Tomorrow features more meetings with Mississauga companies, as well as international companies. It also features the opening of the Canada pavilion, which features over 800 people – the largest delegation from any country at BIO. There is a lot of interest in Canada in recent months, in particular for our wealth of talent and the growth of the life sciences sector. However, we remain in stiff competition with jurisdictions around the world to attract companies and expand market share. As such, we must be diligent and strategic in our approach, and coordinate with all three levels of government to show the world what Canada, Ontario, the GTA and Mississauga have to offer. That’s why I’m at BIO2017 and why Mississauga has been so successful.