In an increasingly globalized world, the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) is continuing its mandate of job creation and investment.
Established in 1988 as a separately incorporated economic development office, the KEDC is tasked with business retention and expansion in the City of Kingston, while factoring in investment attraction, aftercare, and available workforce.
“We’re proactively going out externally to sell Kingston as a destination for business and then attracting new companies in,” Donna Gillespie, CEO of the KEDC said in an interview with The Journal.
Kingston’s declaration of a climate emergency, combined with the launch of an integrated economic development strategy has given rise to a burgeoning sustainable manufacturing sector. Gillespie said companies are focusing on chemical material processing, clean technologies, and critical minerals and materials.
“With the Federal Government having a net zero 2030 goal in the EV [electric vehicle] space, and Canada has been very aggressive in looking at attracting businesses within the EV battery sector. Kingston is well positioned,” Gillespie said.
In the summer of 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the building of a $1.5 billion Umicore EV battery facility in Loyalist Township.
Creative industries in Kingston are essential according to Gillespie, who believes the placemaking and people attracting factors make the City more attractive to the tourism industry. She said KEDC is placing a focus in the health sciences sector.
“It’s looking at life sciences, cell, and gene therapies. This is building off really interesting assets we have an expertise because of existing companies like Octane or Lonza,” Gillespie said.
A self-described proud Queen’s alum, Gillespie said KEDC is always excited by the possibility of engaging students from the University. She highlighted the work done in conjunction with partners at Queen’s.
Understanding the economy and engaging with the local community is something Gillespie didn’t consider; she hopes for students to engage with opportunities in Kingston.
“Often during the Queen’s academic life, we’re a little bubbled,” she said. “It’s how we’re getting students integrated into the community, otherwise, you’re not going to know about cool companies like Octane, Lifecycle, or Empire Life.”
As Gillespie’s team works to make better connections in the community, she said forming relationships between the business community and students will allow exciting careers in Kingston post-graduation.
“We would love for students to consider staying in Kingston for the summer. I think that’s how I fell in love with Kingston while working, working for the summer. Because really, they’re the four most glorious months in Kingston.”
KEDC works throughout the year to host events specifically geared towards students, with the help of departments and offices at the University.
“We have our own summer company that’s funded by the province […] We’re able to help 10 students who are returning to school start their business for the summer, and we have great retention rates. By the end of the summer, 90 per cent of students indicate they’re going to keep their business running.”
Young professional networks are another initiative the KEDC is undertaking or supporting to help facilitate community in the City. The Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem for Southeastern Ontario was created with the specific goal to support potential and existing Black entrepreneurs—KEDC is a supporter of the separately incorporated entity.
“There’s different access to funding now from the provincial and federal government for Black entrepreneurs or those who are racialized or underrepresented […] It’s creating a network where people can see themselves and go: ‘I can see how I fit in Kingston and there’s opportunities to engage,’” Gillespie said.
“We need an ecosystem of young people. It’s growing the critical mass and we’re getting better each year; more and more students are staying. And then also being able to connect people.”
Showcasing the entrepreneurs includes showcasing newcomers to Kingston. In April, Gillespie said an award was launched with Kingston Immigration Partnership that highlights the work of those who moved from a different country to invest in Kingston.
Gillespie tells all aspiring entrepreneurs at Queen’s and Kingston their office is always open, and to reach out with their ideas.
All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.