Driving business growth through exporting: Celebrating the successes of the Northern Ontario Exports Program

Driving business growth through exporting: Celebrating the successes of the Northern Ontario Exports Program

The Northern Ontario Exports Program provides resources, financial assistance, and targeted training to help export-ready small and medium enterprises from Northern Ontario kick open the doors to new markets

Northern Ontario has seen substantial economic growth over the years, and one element contributing to this success is the Northern Ontario Exports Program (NOEP).

Since 2011, this program has played a critical role in helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the region diversify their customer base, generate new revenue, and expand into global markets. By providing funding, training, expert advice, and connections, NOEP helps companies grow by selling outside Ontario.

“The program gave us a gateway to get out of the province. As a small business, the biggest problem is that you don’t have the connections, understanding, or confidence to export, so your mentality is to only look at the markets right in front of you,” said Chris Perusse, President of CSL Environmental in Thunder Bay. “The program allowed us to access experts who said, here’s your opportunity; do you want to try and do it? That gave us the confidence to start.”

Since its inception, NOEP has funded over 200 Northern Ontario-headquartered companies selling products and services ranging from battery electric mining vehicles to medical devices. It has provided $3.92 million in grants that have induced these companies to invest more than $9 million in new business development activities. This support has allowed businesses to connect with new customers on six continents, creating over 1,000 jobs for communities across Northern Ontario.

New and diversified sales aren’t the only benefits that Northern Ontario’s companies gain from exporting. Exporting companies are shown to be more innovative, competitive, and resilient. As a result, they expand their markets and see stronger results in local markets than companies that do not export.

“The Northern Ontario Export Program’s support accelerated our search for markets beyond Ontario’s border,” said Denise Lysak, Manager, Public Relations at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company in Kenora. “Increasing our export sales has reduced our vulnerability in a single marketplace, improved our competitiveness, and introduced new ideas, approaches, and sales techniques that also help our brand at home.”

When launched in 2011, the program focused on helping Northern Ontario’s world-class mining supply sector reduce its dependency on local clients. While the program quickly evolved to support the global ambitions of entrepreneurs in diverse trading sectors, the program has continued to play an important role in building Northern Ontario’s competitive advantage in global mining markets.

“MineConnect was contracted by [the Northern Ontario Exports Program] to lead a 3-year pilot project focused on strengthening the success of Northern Ontario’s mining supply companies in Nevada’s mining sector,” said Marla Tremblay, the Executive Director at MineConnect. “This allowed us to form partnerships with the Nevada Governor’s Office and Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority, which resulted in the Governments of Ontario and Nevada signing an Economic Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding, which will strengthen Northern Ontario’s competitive edge in this significant mining market.”

Northern Ontario has vast natural resources, innovative companies, and a thriving entrepreneurial spirit.

However, resource gaps, labour shortages, and logistical issues are challenges that northern businesses face daily. To overcome these barriers and improve competitiveness on the global stage, NOEP also supports companies to invest in strengthening their teams and operations.

“Working with an expert introduced to us by the program, we tackled rising procurement & logistics costs and improved our supply chain processes,” said Melissa Nash, Manager of Administration for Miller Technology in North Bay. “As a result, Miller Technology is better positioned for significant global growth.”

A pan-Northern initiative of Ontario’s North Economic Development Consortium (ONEDC), the NOEP is hosted by the City of Greater Sudbury in partnership with North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, and Thunder Bay. With the support of FedNor (Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario) and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC), the NOEP has operated in phases, with the latest phase commencing in 2020 and set to conclude in May 2024.

Since 2020, this final phase has engaged with more than 250 companies, providing 101 businesses with $1.61 million in grants. These companies have invested $3.78 million in business-building projects that will benefit 15 communities across Northern Ontario. Their projects are forecasted to generate $393 million in long-term sales and create 665 new jobs.

“It’s because of the support of the Northern Ontario Exports Program that Wabi has been able to explore new markets,” said Johnny Daviau, General Sales Manager for Wabi Iron & Steel Corp, in Temiskaming Shores. “The support has allowed us to travel to find new customers and get the work we need. We’re the busiest we’ve been in a long time, and a lot of this work directly results from the support received.”

Learn more online here.

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