OTTAWA - The largest construction project in Ottawa’s history will get underway in 2013 and the city hopes to boost the economy by getting local businesses involved in constructing the light-rail transit system.
While Ottawa-based companies providing everything from construction to legal services could benefit from the $2.1 billion project, it’s hard for those small businesses to get face time with the international consortia that are bidding to build the light-rail line.
With those limitations in mind, a trade show is set to take place at the CE Centre near the Ottawa International Airport on Feb. 9.
A consortium 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 need do give local businesses the opportunity, too,” he said.
The problem is that smaller businesses simply don’t have access to the huge international conglomerates that will take the lead on the LRT project. That’s what Desroches realized after a local business owner called him asking how to get involved in the LRT construction.
So, the councillor’s solution was to give local businesses a chance to show what they can offer to the three consortia that have been shortlisted as contenders to lead the project.
It’s a unique approach, said Erin Kelly, executive director of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, which is planning the trade show in partnership with the city.
“The challenge is getting exposure,” she said. “How do you let those businesses know you exist?”
About 50 businesses had signed up for booths at the trade show and 150 tickets had been sold for the breakfast at press time.
Representatives from all three consortia, Ottawa Transit Partners (led by Vinci Concessions), Rideau Transit Group (led by ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc.) and Rideau Transit Partners (led by Bouygues Travaux Publics S.A.) will attend the trade show.
Ultimately, it’s up to those consortia to decide if they want to work with any of the local companies, and it’s up to Ottawa businesses to make their best pitch, Desroches said.
“The city’s role is to facilitate that business-to-business interaction,” he said. “The city can play the role of matchmaker.”
The opportunity to keep that money in the local economy is especially important as the federal government plans to cut back the size of the public service, the city’s largest employer.
“We are all bracing for the federal budget and the impact on the Ottawa economy,” Desroches said.
Kelly said there has been no analysis of the economic ripple effect from the LRT project, but she estimated that “thousands” of jobs (both temporary and permanent) would be created.