OTTAWA - Local businesses are taking different approaches in trying to benefit from $2.1 billion in spending on Ottawa’s forthcoming light-rail system.
LRT trade show.
Mayor Jim Watson, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli and Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Steve Desroches participate in the Ottawa Light Rail Transit Trade Show held at the CE Centre on Feb. 9.
Courtesy of Coun. Steve Desroches
Some local companies are going all out to attract attention from the three international consortia of companies shortlisted to win the LRT contract, while other businesses haven’t decided if – or how – they can contribute to the project.
But no matter their approach, representatives from 250 local companies flocked to the CE Centre on Feb. 9 for a trade show and matchmaking session to show off their wares to the consortia.
A representative from Harris Rebar, a steel manufacturer located off Carp Road north of Stittsville, said the trade show was the perfect opportunity to meet with the consortia and try to impress them with some of the upgrades the company is making to clinch a deal with the LRT project.
“We’re expanding our facility to make sure we can compete with anyone internationally that’s trying to come in,” said Allen Piddington, area manager for Harris Rebar.
The company is building a new manufacturing facility anyways, but Harris Rebar certainly has LRT in mind when planning the expansion, Piddington said.
“Just knowing this is coming out helps us plan for paying back the building,” he said. “It helps us make sure we can be a player here for a bigger project … This (LRT project) will be a kickoff to expand and help us reach out to new markets.”
The expansion will likely create around 100 new jobs, said Pierre Paquette, who works in sales and estimating for Harris Rebar in Ottawa.
Overall, the city estimates the LRT project will generate 20,000 person-years of employment and more than $3 billion in economic activity during construction alone.
The trade-show discussions were very preliminary, but fruitful, Piddington said.
“It was very worthwhile. It was a good opportunity to meet with some of the consortias and get an idea of who the consortias are and show is involved with them,” Piddington said.
While his company works regularly with some of the local partners who are members of the consortia, Piddington said, it’s valuable to get face time with the international partners.
“It gives us an opportunity to introduce ourselves not only to the local partners, but the more the international partners who don’t know us,” he said.
It was also a chance for local companies to connect with each other and build teams, Paquette said.
“They have a good team already as the consortia, but they are looking for all the substrates – the local guys to help them out and create a successful business,” he said.
Meanwhile, other companies, like Ottawa South-based Taggart Construction, came to the trade show unsure about how they could fit into the project.
“We hadn’t really done much on it up until today,” Taggart said, adding that he was hoping to connect with all three consortia in the planning phase.
“We wanted to see if we could do some work for all three of them, instead of getting onto one team or another,” he said.
“It’s such a large project that I think it’s just going to be good for the whole industry. There is going to be lots of work for all the companies in Ottawa,” Taggart said.
A consortia of companies will be chosen before the end of the year, with construction on the light-rail from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Station to start in 2013. LRT is scheduled to be up and running by mid-2018.
“There is a long list of products and services that will be needed,” said Coun. Steve Desroches. The Gloucester-South Nepean councillor came up with the idea for the trade show, which was approved by city council last year.
“It’s going to be a huge shot in the arm and we nee do give local businesses the opportunity, too,” he said.
The event was a partnership with the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, and business people said it was something they would like to see happen again.
“Certainly this is the first type of event that I’ve seen the city put on, or the industry in general,” Taggart said, adding that he thought it was a good model to copy in the future for other large infrastructure projects.