Mississauga has proven to be a great starting point for novice businesses, but a new study suggests when those companies are successful and tend to locate elsewhere.
Hamid Alemohammad founded AOMS Technologies with two partners five years ago. The start-up incorporates sensors in concrete sites to collect and analyze data so that engineers can make decisions based on the performance of the concrete.
"Our experience consists of having sensors for places that are very difficult from an environmental point of view," explains Alemohammad. Now his company has grown to 18 employees and has lost its space in the Innovation Research Center of the Innovation (RIC) in Mississauga.
"The company is growing and really needs to expand and we need to move," he said. "So it's like the stage of the company, we graduated, we became adults."
When the company left the non-profit incubator – funded by the University of Toronto-Mississauga (UTM) and the Ministry of Economic Development of Ontario, Job Creation and Trade – moved in North York.
Alemohammad says it's nothing against Mississauga, but it was a decision by the staff.
But it is a trend that the Mississauga Economic Development Office has noted and asked the Canadian Urban Institute to investigate.
Researcher Charles Plant says a report presented to the Mississauga city council on June 26 found that in the last ten years, when start-ups are ready to move on to the next level, they are leaving the city.
And Plant says that Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo are benefiting from the loss of Mississauga.
"You have a situation where you have two big competitors that have been magnets and that have influenced the start-up rate and the rate of scales in particular."
In fact, Mississauga has the third lowest rate of scale companies, before Calgary and Edmonton.
Shirley Speakman is the president of Research Research Commercialization (RIC), a successful incubator that helps market innovative products. It currently has a portfolio of around 500 companies at different stages of development.
Speakman says that what Mississauga needs is a place where companies can go when they need to get to the next level.
"It surprises you that Mississauga is down in that ranking No, I don't think it surprises me," Speakman said, adding that the city needs space for companies that are ready to leave the nest.
"How it goes from your mom and dad's garage, through that ladder … you have to get out of the garage and start the next phase of your company's life."
Bonnie Brown, director of economic development in Mississauga, says the city needs an innovation hub, a large place where many people can meet, where entrepreneurs can meet with their colleagues, encourage each other 39 and learn from each other.
"This idea of mentorship for business-to-business connections, intersections and collisions," he said
Brown added that the city is home to many large multinationals, but what about the companies that are about to leave the startup phase?
"Does Mississauga have a strong business community: could some of these large companies work with growing companies and provide space and opportunities?" she asked.
Aleksandra Allen, project manager for the city's Economic Development Office, is examining the business case for the construction of such an innovation center.
"One of the key recommendations of the (Canadian Urban Institute) was to investigate and understand a way to build that space of innovation," said Allen.
It says that Mississauga is ideally located in the middle of the Toronto-Kitchener-Waterloo corridor. The only missing piece of the puzzle is a place where companies can move from transition to advancement.
"Our role now is to take the lead and identify how the corporate innovation space could be through a solid business plan."