The growing number of international students studying at Lakehead University and Confederation College has attracted the attention of business professionals in both Thunder Bay and India.
At a breakfast meeting on Monday, local business professionals and representatives from companies in India held a round-table discussion about what kind of opportunities can be developed between India and Thunder Bay that would grow business interests.
“Part of the reason they are here is they’ve heard about the massive growth in international students in Thunder Bay,” said Piero Pucci, supervisor of economic development with the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission. “Their curiosity has been piqued by that. They want to know what do the students know about Thunder Bay that’s so great.”
Kasi Rao, president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council, called the students “great ambassadors for the Canada-India story and, in particular the Thunder Bay-India story.”
The face-to-face breakfast meeting was a positive discussion about how businesses in India and Thunder Bay can work together.
“The challenge before us is to see how we would position Thunder Bay’s distinctive strengths and how they relate to India,” said Rao. “I think areas in which Thunder Bay excels are distance health, servicing remote communities through the combination of technology plus emergency assets, these are all issues that are deeply relevant in the Indian context.”
Rao also cited the Thunder Bay’s port for shipment of commodities as well as mining and forestry as other sectors in which Thunder Bay is a key player. One of India’s largest companies, Aditya Birla Group, already owns and operates the pulp mill in Terrace Bay.
“That’s a perfect example of a company that’s really giving back to the community and supporting the development of the economy,” said Pucci. “I know that in Terrace Bay that they’ve done great things there, remodelling the plant and repurposing it to satisfy global markets.”
Interest in developing more of a relationship between India and Thunder Bay also comes from local businesses.
“We have some producers in Thunder Bay interested in working in South East Asia and in India and China. Many of our software companies already do business in those parts of the world,” said Pucci. “You’re looking at a market of 1.3 billion consumers, that’s very appealing to a lot of Thunder Bay firms.”
For the past three years, the CEDC has been building relationships with various international agencies in Toronto, explained Pucci, such as the Canada-India Business Council, Enterprise Ireland, the Italian Chamber of Commerce, and the Portuguese Trade Commission.
“It’s to try and increase the visibility of Thunder Bay firms on a global scale and hopefully increase their revenue and sales and lead to the creation of more jobs,” said Pucci.