Growing up, Merrilee Fullerton watched as Kanata North firmly cemented its status as Canada’s largest tech park. After being elected as the MPP for Kanata-Carleton in last fall’s election, her focus quickly turned to ways she could support the business community from Queen’s Park.
“It’s critical to understand the importance of tech, both for Ottawa and the province,” the Progressive Conservative politician says.
Earlier this year, Fullerton released a report titled Kanata-Carleton’s High Tech and Business Initiative in which she outlines several ideas to help support and grow the local tech sector:
RAISING KANATA NORTH’S PROFILE
As other Canadian cities such as Toronto or Vancouver make waves in the tech
industry, Fullerton says she wants a similar buzz around Kanata North. She plans to advocate for the area in government and help strengthen the sense of community within the tech park by meeting with businesses.
“Sometimes you can keep putting forward a narrative, but it has to get traction,” Fullerton says. “When we start to expand voices – that’s when we will get traction. It’s about multiple levels of government working together to expand that message.”
Fullerton recently hosted Todd Smith, the province’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade, in Kanata North so he could see how the area creates jobs and attracts outside capital first-hand.
ATTRACTING VENTURE CAPITAL
As more companies set up shop in Kanata, Fullerton says she wants to see more capital flowing to local early stage startups by attracting more venture
capitalists to the area.
Part of that mission is working with an Ontario-wide intellectual property panel that will look at how to assist startups, support creativity and create opportunities for jobs and investments. The panel will be led by Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research In Motion (now Blackberry).
STRENGTHENING TIES WITH THE ACADEMIC COMMUNITY
The University of Ottawa recently opened its own facility in Kanata North for students and researchers to better engage with the tech sector. Fullerton says building and maintaining those relationships are key, especially as employers look to local universities and colleges to meet their talent needs.
“I see tremendous potential to create a better interface with industry so that we can understand what their needs are and make sure students are receiving experiential learning,” she says.