Eight of Durham Region’s largest employers came together with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) on Tuesday, May 10 for the region’s first-ever Idea Summit. The one-day conference, which was held at the Durham College (DC) Centre for Food, provided a platform for the development of a new strategy aimed at creating jobs and stimulating investment and innovation in the region.
360 Insights, AECOM, DC, General Motors of Canada, Lakeridge Health, Ontario Power Generation, Spark Innovation Centre, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, were all in attendance along with the OCC and the leadership from chambers of commerce and boards of trade across Durham Region. The chief executive officers from each of the employers committed a combined 90 employees and partners to be part of the full-day discussion, which was full of energy, engagement and discussion about how to move the community forward.
A number of objectives were identified as priorities for the coming months, which will be guided by the steering group of CEOs to ensure momentum is sustained and results realized. Among the objectives is to establish a common and clear vision for Durham Region that is endorsed and supported by all levels of government, business and other organizations, and the broader community; ‘collision’ (or hackathon) events that bring different community partners together to discuss and find solutions for issues of importance to the community; and the establishment of a mentoring network of senior leaders for small- and medium-sized start-ups and entrepreneurs. The CEO steering group will identify individuals and groups to take leadership on specific actions, and will be looking to the broader community for support moving forward.
Although Durham Region benefits from a highly skilled and well-educated workforce and has some of the lowest industrial and commercial land prices in the Greater Toronto Area, the region lags its local counterparts in job creation. At present, statistics show there are only 67 jobs in the region for every 100 employable workers, compared to 86 in Halton Region, 91 in York Region, 100 in Peel and more than 124 in Toronto. The summit is the first step in what is expected to be an ongoing process designed to create the conditions necessary to increase job growth and investment in the area via a long-term dialogue that will provide recommendations to all levels of government on ways to improve Durham Region’s competitiveness and help attract investment opportunities.
To ensure diversity among attendees, each partner was asked to provide 12 representatives from within their organization, resulting in a strategic dialogue focused on the importance of innovation, economic and social diversification for the region and its surrounding areas.
The day began with a keynote address by John Baker, president and chief executive officer of Desire2Learn, a highly successful online learning systems software company, followed by facilitated sessions and a moderated panel discussion on growing innovation and entrepreneurship. The panel discussion featured three successful Durham-based entrepreneurs: Jason Atkins from 360 Insights, Jeff Quipp of Search Engine People, and Russ Montague of Nerd Block and ShirtPunch.
“It is clear that Durham Region is in an early maturation stage of an innovative economy and therefore it is critical that our local business leaders come together to develop a new community vision to drive innovation, growth, productivity and workforce development,” said Don Lovisa, president, DC, speaking on behalf of the participating organizations. “Together we are proud to play a role in this community-wide effort, which will lead to positive change and innovation throughout the region.”