Companies pursue security spending in Washington

by Ottawa Business Journal Staff

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With the United States hypersensitive to the terrorist threat, five Ottawa companies will travel to Washington this week to capitalize on increases in defence spending.

The Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation has organized the trip to the U.S. capital for the Homeland & Global Security summit, which runs from March 3-5. The local companies participating in the event include SolaCom Technologies Inc., SION International Inc., PathMinder Inc., Vistar and KOM Networks Inc. A sixth company from Burnaby, B.C., Response Biomedical, is joining the group.

Mike Darch, OCRI's director of global marketing, says the Washington area will be a hotbed of opportunity for firms focused on the security field.

"If we look at the Washington market, between homeland security and IT security, the government is spending a whole lot more than it was before. The budgets in the U.S. are going up," says Darch. "We just want to make it known how Ottawa is cost competitive."

The firms will use the opportunity to network and, best case scenario, sign some deals in a market that's estimated to be worth anywhere from US$93 billion to US$138 billion. About 1,500 delegates will attend the summit. OCRI has ensured the firms will have visibility, as it has secured a booth for the participants to showcase their products.

Gennady Reshetnikov, president of PathMinder Inc., says 75 per cent of the firm's business is generated from the U.S., and he hopes for even more.

"We're looking for more contracts. We want to increase the volume of business we do in the States," he says. PathMinder manufactures optical turnstiles, which is technology that monitors traffic flow into and out of buildings.

Neil Knudsen, president of Vistar, sees the trip as more of a fact-finding mission.

"We're very well placed to garner some customers ... we are going to set up a network. It's a little bit early to sign deals. We want to find out who are the people we should be talking to," Knudsen says. "This will provide the kind of exposure and access to the market that we couldn't get on our own."

One firm that does expect to sign on the dotted line is SION. The software firm has attended similar conferences, which have led to two major deals within three months, says CEO Kalai Kalaichelvan.

"These trade shows are useful. And we are pretty confident going there and showing our value proposition," says Kalaichelvan. The key to successful negotiations, he says, is to be upfront about the fact that there's little time to waste. "Here we are a small company, we're a startup. We cannot afford to spend 18 months (negotiating deals.) It's a question of how you architect the deal."

The trip will culminate with a lunch organized by the U.S. embassy on March 6. The event will be attended by Canadian expatriates and Washington executives looking to increase their northern business ties.

Darch says the trip is part of OCRI's three-year Maintain the Momentum campaign. OCRI's campaign has identified five American cities — Boston, Austin, Washington, San Jose and Raleigh. The goal of the campaign is to increase the city's visibility in these cities, increase investment, establish Ottawa as a global technology centre, provide a consistent and coherent brand for the city and increase interaction between the public and private sector.

So far, it's providing some positive results.

"As we talk to our own companies and companies abroad, the brand of Ottawa as a global technology centre is definitely going up. It's difficult to measure, but the feedback coming in to us is more positive," Darch says. "We've noticed an upturn in the number of inquiries we've had in terms of investments."

For example ING Direct recently located in Ottawa and Ipsos Reid set up a call centre in the city.

– By Kate Chappell

Source: Ottawa Business Journal

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