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Is there a reason why businesses choose Oshawa first?

Companies continue to choose the city as Canadian starting point

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It is a phenomenon the city has seen numerous times in recent years.

As the municipality continues to grow, so do the businesses, and several times, Oshawa has been the starting ground for large corporations making their move from the United States to the great white north.

Starting in 2010, Oshawa saw the arrival of Buffalo Wild Wing, a restaurant chain that already had a wing joint in nearly every state in America, open its first Canadian location on Taunton Road East.

Florida-based Del Monte followed suite in 2013 when it opened its first Canadian plant for processing fresh-cut fruits and vegetables on Thornton Road South.

Most recently, Firehouse Subs opened the doors on its first Canadian location on Ritson Road in 2015.

Now, it’s starting again as Fast-Fix, a jewelry and watch repair company with more than 150 locations south of the border, the United Kingdom and Ireland, looks to make its push into Canada, with Oshawa as one of its first stops.

“Getting into where the people are, where they’re living, is an important move,” says Gerry Weber, Fast-Fix’s CEO.

“I’m eager to get going as quickly as possible.”

And while Weber says it may be about getting to where the customers are, Mayor John Henry says it simply makes sense for businesses to locate here, especially those larger companies needing to transport goods.

“It’s easier to service eastern Canada from Oshawa from a logistics point of view,” he says. “We have the ability to provide all modes of transportation.”

Harbour, rail and air transport all located within the city are a big draw, Henry says, along with strong infrastructure and a seamless process.

“We are very supportive and easy to do business with,” Henry says.

For Weber, this is not the first time he has made the cross-border push.

Originally born in Canada, Weber was part of the contingent responsible for the move of Shoppers Drug Mart into the American market in 1979. Years later, he would be responsible for moving the rental movie chain Blockbuster into Canada.

He says the key to success is knowing what you are getting yourself into and accepting the fact that perhaps things that work in America will not work north of the border.

“I think it’s knowing your market, not coming in with an arrogance that whatever works south of the border will work north of the border,” he says.

“I think it’s just understanding who your clientele is, what the market is and being sensitive to that and adapting to that.”

It’s something even the largest of companies are not immune to, evident in the disastrous attempt by Target to move into the Canadian market.

“They really didn’t understand the market, they didn’t adapt to the market,” he says.

As a middle-sized company, Weber says he has a good understanding of what will be required, mainly, ensuring his franchisees become integrated into their communities.

“The sense of loyalty, I believe, is stronger in Canada towards businesses that are part of the community, he says.

While Weber offered no timeline for his move into Canada, he says stores can open in 90 to 120 days following approvals and there are plans to get into many of the major shopping malls in Oshawa, including the Oshawa Centre and the proposed Riocan Windfields shopping centre.