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New opportunities emerge for Centre-Ouest businesses

Words of wisdom | November 30 2020

"With economic development, I found my vocation: to contribute to the community," says Marc-André Perron, Executive Director of PME MTL Centre-Ouest. This is what I was looking for while studying urban planning and public administration. I wanted to work on projects that improve people’s quality of life and that generate collective benefits. But not every project reflected this vision. I used my experience to turn to commercial revitalization, then to economic development, 20 years ago."

Pre-launch phase: getting to know a heterogeneous territory

When PME MTL was created, the main challenge was to get to know the vast territory, which is extremely heterogeneous, with central, commercial and industrial districts, districts undergoing conversion like the Chabanel district, and other, more residential spaces. 

A common approach to economic development had to be found while adapting to the different challenges of each district. We also had to make ourselves known to businesses and understand their needs. The key was to understand the dynamics of development and of possible intervention in each of the territories.

Among this diversity, PME MTL Centre-Ouest found two new promising vocations for the territory: urban agriculture and urban manufacturing.

Growth phase: urban agriculture and manufacturing

Almost 10 years ago, Lufa arrived in Ahuntsic because the district had significant advantages: a central location in the greater Montréal area, which favours short distribution channels, affordable costs, and buildings that could have greenhouses on their roof. Lufa now has two greenhouses on the territory, one at its head office and the other at its distribution centre.

This initiative was of great interest to certain Montréal territories, including Saint-Laurent and later Ahuntsic-Cartierville, which amended their respective bylaws to allow urban agriculture in certain parts of their territory. These decisions made it possible to attract similar projects, such as Aquaverti Farms, a high-tech urban farm specializing in lettuce, or La Centrale Agricole, the largest urban agriculture cooperative in Québec.

This desire to get closer to the consumer is also found in urban manufacturing. The Centre-Ouest region has a rich manufacturing history, whether in Saint-Laurent, Mont-Royal or the Chabanel district. Our territory has Montréal’s greatest concentration of manufacturing jobs. That’s why we see urban manufacturing as a logical extension of what was already being done in our territory.

Urban manufacturing allows us to maintain employment areas and to take advantage of these areas, which were previously underutilized. Take, for example, Barista, a company supported by PME MTL which specializes in coffee roasting and which has just made it onto the shelves at Metro.  

Maturity phase: e-commerce development   

E-commerce is quickly establishing itself as a fixture in our economy. Thanks to the presence of essential infrastructures such as the Canada Post sorting center or the Montréal-Trudeau airport, the Centre-Ouest territory plays a pivotal role in the development of this sector of activity. However, there is still much work to be done in terms of e-commerce logistics. Travel and transport volumes are high in the territory, as is the number of packages. PME MTL Centre-Ouest leverages its network and puts different stakeholders in contact so that the entire logistics chain is organized as efficiently as possible, while working to reduce the impacts on mobility and the environment that are caused by certain e-commerce activities.

Logistics is one of the main challenges for entrepreneurs who want to sell online, but it’s also often an aspect overlooked by e-merchants. This is all the more important in a context where we are now reaching the stage where businesses are not moving from a physical space to an online store, but building directly online. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend of launching online – without a store – is becoming more pronounced.

Going forward: new opportunities

Other sectors have the potential to grow more on our territory. Life sciences, for example. The health crisis has brought to light a strong interest in health solutions, medical supply and, more generally, improving citizens’ quality of life.

As for the future, I might be optimistic, but I think the current crisis inevitably creates problems, but also opportunities, and entrepreneurs will want to seize them. PME MTL is there to help them.

Learn more about 5 years of support


Marc-André Perron is the Executive Director of PME MTL Centre-Ouest, one of the six service areas of the PME MTL network, which assists entrepreneurs in the boroughs of Ahuntsic-Cartierville and Saint-Laurent, the city of Côte-Saint-Luc, and the towns of Hampstead, Montréal West and Mont-Royal.

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