Some consider that Canada needs marketing campaign to attract immigrant talent

KLUGMAN AND LYNCH
While others waver on immigration, Canada should prospect for talent
IAIN KLUGMAN AND KEVIN LYNCH
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Sep. 09, 2016 5:00AM EDT
Last updated Friday, Sep. 09, 2016 5:09PM EDT

Quite simply, it’s time to go prospecting for exceptional entrepreneurs, skilled talent and leading university researchers who, given a sales pitch and a choice, would consider relocating to a country that is politically stable, ethnically diverse and socially cohesive. (monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images/iStockphoto)Whatever else these names conjure up, they also signal an opportunity for Canada. Quite simply, it’s time to go prospecting for exceptional entrepreneurs, skilled talent and leading university researchers who, given a sales pitch and a choice, would consider relocating to a country that is politically stable, ethnically diverse and socially cohesive.

Canada is uniquely positioned to act. We value newcomers and what they have to offer. Our economy provides a reasonable degree of economic certainty in an uncertain and volatile world. And ours is a society with emerging entrepreneurial communities that have big aspirations – to build world-class innovation ecosystems and create world-class, innovative firms.
But opportunity does not equal reality unless it’s seized and realized. And that means actively prospecting for such global talent in places such as Britain, the United States, France and Germany, to name several obvious targets.

Why now? Consider the uncertainty in Britain for promising startups and entrepreneurs in the London-Cambridge innovation ecosystem. Will they be able to access European markets for their products and services? Will they be eligible for EU research and technology funding? Will lending and risk capital dry up? Will their government cut funding for university and applied research?

The U.S. uncertainty is of a different type, but it’s no less visceral for academic researchers, entrepreneurs and startup founders, particularly those working on visas.

And Germany and France, with strong technology cadres in business, may be less appealing today to startups, entrepreneurs and researchers who value a global, inclusive vision and worry about social cohesion.

This is not a “field of dreams” world where you build a relative economic and social advantage and talent pours in. Successful talent prospecting today is a combination of branding and sophisticated on-the-ground recruiting. It takes a comprehensive effort, holistic planning, a few locations to place your prospecting bets, a compelling narrative about “why relocate, why now” and dogged persistence.

In other words, we need a marketing campaign, which means getting over the Canadian distaste for self-promotion and taking advantage of the unique opportunity in front of us.

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Iain Klugman is CEO at Communitech. Kevin Lynch is vice-chair, Bank of Montreal, and former clerk of the Privy Council.

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