../Morning Post
Posted May 12, 2011

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Agriculture

Ontario Food Cluster declares increased hunger for international business at SIAL Canada 2011

Toronto – Choosing SIAL Canada 2011, an international tradeshow with 200,000 visitors from more than 200 countries, for its launch, the newly formed Ontario Food Cluster is declaring an increased hunger to attract more agri-food firms outside Canada to join or expand an existing 2,500 food and beverage companies in the province. Those companies boast manufacturing revenue approaching $34 billion and help employ 210,000 industry employees, researchers, innovators and collaborators who have built a stellar reputation for reliable, sustainable sources of agricultural raw materials, state-of-the-art automated food processing methods, and world-class food safety standards.

“Ontario has a global reputation for food quality and dominates 31.8% of Canada's supermarket and convenience/specialty food store market, more than any other Canadian province,” says Gerald Pisarzowski, Vice-President Business Development, Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance. “The Ontario Food Cluster’s mission is to grow that national dominance to international dominance.” GTMA is an Ontario Food Cluster partner along with Canada’s Technology Triangle (Waterloo Region), Grow Guelph (City of Guelph and University of Guelph), Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

“What makes the Ontario Food Cluster so compelling is our R&D-driven talent base,” says Sue Bennett, Director of University and Community Relations at the University of Guelph. “International companies moving to or expanding in Ontario can tap into a renewable resource of 5,200 annual graduates from 64 food-specific college and university programs. There are also more than 500 well-funded R&D experts working in Ontario's academic institutions, or in 132 research institutes, networks, and associations devoted to excellence in food production, processing and packaging.”

The Ontario Food Cluster embraces internationally focused companies such as General Mills Canada, H.J. Heinz Company of Canada, Maple Leaf Foods, Kellogg Canada, Parmalat Canada, Saputo, Dare Foods, Schneider Foods, Cargill Canada, George Weston Ltd. and Unilever.

A recent example of infrastructure momentum in the Ontario Food Cluster is the 60,000 square foot Institute of Food Processing Technology at Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Waterloo Region, created in partnership with the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors. The new institute will be ready to open its doors in October, and will eventually host 500 full-time students and 300 apprentices in classrooms, mechanical shops, laboratory settings and a pilot plant with different processing lines to help maximize learning experiences.

The governments of Ontario and Canada offer an array of incentive programs to the agri-food industry, including:

Export Market Access: A Global Expansion Program: a $5 million initiative, jointly sponsored by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, designed to help small and medium-sized enterprises increase their access to global markets. The program covers 50% of eligible costs in four specified areas.

Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit Ontario: Eligible companies that hire and train apprentices in skilled trades, including food process operators, receive a tax credit up to $10,000 per year.

First Job Initiative - Ontario Centres of Excellence: helps Ontario companies hire knowledgeable, highly-skilled graduates from Ontario colleges and universities. Established companies receive support for up to 50% of the recruit's salary, to a maximum of $40,000. Start-up companies are eligible for support for up to 80% of the recruit's salary, to a maximum of $50,000.

Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario): programs support economic and community development, innovation, and economic diversification, with a budget of $1 Billion from 2009-2013.

AgriProcessing Initiative (API): a five year initiative providing up to $50 million and ending on March 31, 2014. The program supports existing processing companies for agri-processing projects involving the adoption of innovative and new-to-company manufacturing technologies and processes that are essential to sustaining and improving the sector's position in a global marketplace.

Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (SR&ED): eligible companies can earn an investment tax credit (ITC) of up to 35% on the first $2 million of qualified expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada, and 20% on any excess amount. The program encourages Canadian businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to conduct R&D in Canada.

For a complete list of provincial and federal government programs, please see: website

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