Ottawa

New York woos Ontario's electric car, boat makers

New York state has been luring Ontario's green technology companies south of the border with hefty incentives, and at least three Ontario electric vehicle makers say the offers are too tempting to ignore.

New York state has been luring Ontario's green technology companies south of the border with hefty incentives, and at least three Ontario electric vehicle makers say the offers are too tempting to ignore.

Montgomery Gisborne, who runs Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company, said the millions in innovation funding offered to companies by the New York State Energy Research Development Authority, or NYSERDA, were a major factor in his decision to move the company to Rome, N.Y., in the next few months.

Tamarack Lake, which makes a variety of electric boats including one that uses solar power, is currently based in Brechin, Ont., on the east side of Lake Simcoe. NYSERDA is offering it $500,000 to make 1,200 boats a year by 2012.

At least two other companies — Mississauga-based electric carmaker Electrovaya and a firm that is developing electric ice resurfacing machines — are also applying for funding from NYSERDA and considering a move south.

Colleen Ryan, a spokeswoman for NYSERDA, said the agency actively looks for companies with cutting edge transportation and renewable energy technologies that it can encourage to set up in New York.

"We offer a lot of incentives to help with that," she said.

They include a competitive program that provides up to $40,000 to fund basic concept development of new technology and up to $250,000 to fund specific technology development projects related to renewable and clean energy.

In Ontario, Gisborne said, "I haven't heard anything like that and any efforts to promote these electric vehicle technologies, be it with wheels or hulls, has met with such resistance and such friction."

John Wilkinson, Ontario's minister of research and innovation, said Ontario is not surprised that other jurisdictions are trying to lure away its innovative startup companies.

"We're in a global race for talent and also in a global race to commercialize these new ideas," he said.

But he said Ontario is taking a different approach from New York.

In November, the Innovation Ministry announced it would contribute $90 million to a $175-million venture capital fund.

"So that they can find the capital they need right here in Ontario and they're not lured away by the siren call of somebody else's capital," Wilkinson explained.

The fund includes investment from the private sector that the government hopes to grow in order to help emerging companies in a variety of fields, but Gisborne said such funds usually go to more established companies rather than small startups like his.

Franz Hartmann, who teaches at the University of Toronto's Centre for the Environment, said unlike Canada, governments in other countries are nurturing the growth of their green industries specifically.

"They realize that we really have to invest in green technology," he said, adding that Canada needs to do the same. "We are not doing that and therefore we're going to really pay for it in the future."

Meanwhile, Canada's oil and gas sector receives more than a billion dollars each year in tax cuts, Hartmann said, adding that the money could be used instead to help homegrown environmental companies.

 

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