St. Laurent businesses showed resilience during pandemic: report

The Industrial Expertise Center was launched in the spring of 2020 in St. Laurent.

Businesses based in the borough of St. Laurent as a whole showed resilience even during the globally economically devastating pandemic year of 2020, says an activity report by Développement Économique Saint-Laurent (DESTL).

The report says the businesses were "stimulated by the unwavering support of the DESTL team, which relayed and explained the government measures put in place to support businesses and workers in this very difficult period" and "worked to have certain activities recognized as essential services and to generate new business partnerships."

The report added that the launch of the Industrial Expertise Center of Montreal (IEC MTL) in the spring of 2020 and the "redefining of DESTL's proposal for a greener economy have also contributed to boosting business development.

"2020 was marked by the responsiveness and adaptation of the services offered to better meet the needs of businesses," stated Jean-Marc Laniel, President of DESTL. "The DESTL team has been on the frontlines while reinventing itself to better inform, accompany, support, and innovate in the long term. Its members have all my gratitude for the work done."

Mayor Alan DeSousa said that DESTL "has played a vital role in supporting our businesses during the challenges of the past year. In particular, this has allowed companies to maintain a high level of investment and preserve manufacturing jobs. We are now counting once again on innovation in order to emerge stronger from this crisis.

"Recovery will also require the development of a greener and more sustainable economy, the acceleration of businesses towards the digital shift, and the opening of markets to promote exports and commercialization. These promising niches correspond precisely to the expertise of the DESTL team at the service of St. Laurent businesses."

The 2020 activity report says the borough had 4,255 businesses and 104,043 jobs that year.

"Of this, 2,600 businesses are directly related to the manufacturing sector, which represents 39 percent of the jobs in the territory....Information Technology and Communications, Aeronautics, and Life Sciences employ nearly 24,800 workers, a slight increase over the previous year."

Other points in the report:

• "Despite the multiple issues generated by the pandemic, 2020 was a record year in terms of the number of visits from foreign subsidiaries in St. Laurent. These correspond to 26% of the jobs in Saint-Laurent. They came mainly from North America (46%) and Europe (42%)"

• "Exporting businesses have faced particular challenges due to the closing of borders and pressure on supply chains. In spite of this, the Export team assisted more than 138 businesses and 26 structuring projects on the West Island of Montreal."

• "DESTL also conducted a series of consultations that led to the definition of a business plan to set up an Innovation Zone in St. Laurent. This could generate up to $500 million in private investments in the first year."

Still, St. Laurent businesses did feel the effects of the pandemic, compared to the pre-COVID year of 2019, as indicated by the DESTL's activity report of that year.

Total jobs in the borough decreased from 108,071 in 2019 to 104,043 in 2020, and the amount of businesses declined from 4,576 in 2019 to 4,255 in 2020. We asked DESTL what sectors accounted for the decline of 321 businesses between those two years.

"The main cause is the retail sector," DESTL communications manager Samuel Urbain explained, adding that there were 249 fewer retail companies (77 percent of the 321 losses), 35 fewer distribution companies and 45 fewer service companies. "It is easy to imagine that the pandemic is the main cause for the closure of many retail businesses."

And regarding the total jobs decline in St. Laurent of 108,071 in 2019 to 104,043 in 2020, "the manufacturing in general was less affected by the pandemic itself, with one more manufacturing company than in 2019 (621 in total). The three main clusters remain Technologies information, Aeronautics and Life sciences. Information and communications technologies lost 11 companies and lost 16 jobs. Aeronautics suffered more in terms of job loss (201 jobs lost)."

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