How can we make Montreal great again?
That was the focus of a massive conference at Place des Arts Monday called “I See Montreal” or “Je vois Montreal.”
More than 1,000 people gathered at the conference organized in part by the Montreal Board of Trade to encourage entrepreneurs with new projects to lead the way in community growth and job creation.
“Montreal will be what we make of it,” said BMO Financial President Jacques Menard, who help generate the idea of the conference, because, he said, job creation has to come from people not governments.
“We’ve developed this bad habit of waiting for solutions to come from up high, well you know what? They never do,” he said.
The team at BMO studied several cities that came back from the brink, including Boston and Seattle.
“Cities come back because communities mobilize themselves and decide that they can make their communities a better place,” he said.
Montreal is now looking for about 150 projects like that. The conference brought in all types of entrepreneurs who have financing plans for Montreal’s future.
They’re looking for strategic partners to help take their ideas to the next level.
Louise Guay of Montreal Living Lab is one of those people.
The living lab is transforming Caisse Desjardins branches into shared offices so that people can rent space by the hour to meet clients.
“It’s a completely new way to work closer to your home, so you don’t have to cross the bridge,” explained Guay.
Elaine Ethier is raising money to reopen the former NDG cinema to make the community more vibrant.
“We’ll be able to attract more Montrealers,” said Ethier. “I really want to see this place as a hub.”
The board of trade is hopeful.
They say while Montreal business is far from booming right now, there are reasons to be optimistic as one our largest trading partners is doing well.
“Not only is the US economy very strong at the moment, but the Canadian dollar is weakening so it means our products here are seen in the US as good products but not too expensive,” said Michel Leblanc from the Montreal Board of Trade.
There’s also optimism with a stable government in Quebec, said Leblanc.
“I think the spirit in Montreal is improving a lot, and when the spirit is improving it will eventually mean investment, hiring, development, creativity,” he said.
Change won’t happen overnight, economists warn. It could take Montreal five to seven years to get back on track.