A view of Downtown Kingston, Ontario

The city is anchored by multinational giants, homegrown successes and high-growth startups with top talent

Welcome to our latest spotlight showcasing the diverse municipalities spread across our province, highlighting a unique region and what makes it special from both a business and lifestyle standpoint. As always, it will be in their own words.
Here’s the next in our lineup from our friends in Kingston, Ontario.

Strategically located close to the American border—and midway between Canada’s most populous cities, Montreal and Toronto—Kingston, Ontario offers a unique and thriving business community anchored in innovation and collaboration. The city boasts easy access to global markets and a highly skilled talent pool that keeps growing, thanks to internationally renowned post-secondary campuses and an influx of newcomers each year drawn to the city’s quality of life.

The city of Kingston is located at the western end of the St. Lawrence Seaway and has a vibrant downtown full of handsome heritage landmarks. It has attracted attention from both growing domestic firms and expanding global operations.

With a growing population, Kingston boasts countless corporate success stories that continue to rise in number each year. Over the past two decades, Kingston’s regional business community, research institutions and government initiatives have laid the groundwork for an economy driven by innovative and enterprising minds. While the city is welcoming to small startups with a variety of incubator programs, it also has ample amenities like serviced industrial parks that more mature companies need to flourish.

Kingston’s startup ecosystem was recently ranked sixth-best in the world by StartupBlink for a city its size.

Lately, the city’s business scene has become increasingly international as multinational companies invest in homegrown innovation or set up new operations in the region.

Multinational business investments

Kingston battery recycler expands as the EV market heats up

An employee at Li-Cycle's facility
An employee at Li-Cycle’s facility, a Kingston, Ontario-based battery recycler

Starting with a pilot “urban mining” operation in Kingston in 2017, Canadian battery recycler Li-Cycle was fully operational within two years and is expanding rapidly into the United States.

The revolutionary two-stage process developed in Kingston involves scrapping lithium-ion batteries and reclaiming critical minerals like manganese, lithium, nickel and cobalt that can be sold back to battery manufacturers as part of a vital resource supply line. This strategic move creates domestic value chains and job opportunities that have been outsourced for several decades.

The Kingston facility can now process 120,000 EV battery packs annually. A 2021 IPO gave Li-Cycle a value of $1.57 billion and established the company as an international leader in sustainable manufacturing for the automotive industry.

Upon arriving in Kingston, Li-Cycle recruited local companies Green Centre Canada and Kingston Process Metallurgy Inc. (or KPM) to test their refining process and scale it up to a commercial level. After building the original Kingston plant, a third company, BGM Metalworks, produced modular factory units for Li-Cycle’s new American facilities.

Kingston medical innovators partner with international firms

A scientist
A scientist working at Octane Medical facilities

One of Canada’s most successful medical technology firms, Octane Medical, was co-founded by a Queen’s graduate student whose early interest in artificial implants shifted to regenerative medicine in the 1980s.

Today, the company’s five divisions of Octane Medical work with international partners on a variety of medtech innovations, including tissue engineering (Octane Ortho), radioisotope-based medical imaging (Octane Clinical Systems) and spinal implants for degenerative disc disease (Octane EXO).

Octane Medical funds most of its research and development before partnering with other companies to reach global markets. Their 40,000 square-foot building houses bio-labs, clean rooms and a manufacturing floor that produces hundreds of thousands of medical devices, biomaterials and instrumentation a year. In 2018, Swiss bio-science giant Lonza acquired a controlling interest in Octane Biotech’s Cocoon Technology that allows hospitals to create patient-specific cellular therapy systems.

Octane Medical relies on Kingston’s easy access to Toronto, Montreal and the American border for cost-effective shipping as a recruiting tool to maintain its 130 highly specialized staff.

International food and beverage manufacturing and processing

3 workers testing the fruit products
3 workers testing the fruit products developed in the Kingston processing plant, the company's North American headquarters.

Portuguese fruit processor Frulact made Kingston its North American headquarters in 2017 and doubled its factory footprint last year, adding another 30 employees to its workforce. Today, with $50 million invested in its state-of-the-art facility, half of its annual 25,000 tonnes of natural fruit-based products are shipped to American dairy, ice cream and beverage customers. The company’s loading docks are only a half-hour drive to the international bridge at Ivy Lea that provides access to the United States via upstate New York.

Multinational laser company buys Kingston tech and stays in town

Another regional success is IPG Photonics, a U.S.-based multinational laser company that acquired a small high-tech imaging startup that grew out of a Queen’s University research project developed almost a decade ago.

IPG wanted Laser Depth Dynamics’ precision control technology for the robotic laser welding systems it supplies to the world’s aviation and automotive industry. IPG kept its operations in Kingston to maintain its highly trained research and manufacturing team and is now preparing to expand.

Later this year, IPG will break ground for a new facility in a local industrial park to continue advancing its position in the high-stakes field of robotic manufacturing, where tolerances are measured in fractions of a hair width.

Kingston Economic Development Services are ready to help

For two decades, Kingston Economic Development Corporation has been a key partner in developing and expanding businesses in eastern Ontario.

“We are the logical first step for any enterprise looking for a home regardless of their size or sector,” explains CEO Donna Gillespie. “We can introduce entrepreneurs to some of Kingston’s world-class research facilities or help established manufacturers navigate the local landscape.

“Kingston has an appreciation for new ideas, and we know how to help business build for the future.”

Learn why Ontario, Canada is the place to invest.

Kingston, Ontario’s skyline at night
The skyline of Kingston, Ontario at night from Lake Ontario.