John D. Tennant

Photo of John D. Tennant

John Tennant's varied and distinguished career in Canada's foreign service and subsequent leadership of the public-private economic development partnership for Ontario's economically successful Waterloo Region provide him with broad ranging expertise in international trade, foreign investment, economic development, innovation, and the interactions of the private sector, governments and academia.  His global exposure, multi-faceted experience and strategic perspectives are reflected in the diversity of projects for which he has been engaged since 2008, through his consulting and advisory firm (W2N2 Partnership) and more recently as well through the Global Investment Attraction Group (GIAG).

From 2002 to 2008, John was Chief Executive Officer of Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc (CTT Inc), the public-private regional economic development partnership for Ontario’s Waterloo Region, including the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.  Under John’s leadership, Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc was highly regarded for its trend-setting success as the collaborative model marketing Waterloo Region to the world, attracting new businesses and charting directions for the Regional economy.  Canada's Technology Triangle Inc, together with the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, earned the Canadian Urban Institute's 2009 Global City Award for transforming the Region into a global centre of excellence.  A key dimension that John worked with companies to exploit was the productive R&D relationships that can be forged with post-secondary educational institutions.  John was directly involved in attracting and retaining foreign investments in high technology, health care, manufacturing and R&D.  In March 2009, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce honoured John with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in attracting new business to the community.

Culminating his career with Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, the Canadian Cabinet appointed John as Canadian Consul General in Detroit where he served from 1998 to 2002, as Canada’s point person for relations with Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, with considerable emphasis on trade, investment and technology.  The four state territory of the Consulate General accounts for the largest trade and investment exchanges of any Canadian mission, along with extensive cross-border interactions on environmental, financial, defence, cultural and academic matters.   As Canada's senior representative in this heavily travelled corridor at the time of the 9/11 tragedy, John quickly brought together critical cross-border stakeholders, stimulating problem-solving dialogue and overcoming short-term border gridlock, while participating in the formulation of principles to guide longer-term bilateral policies and agreements to facilitate trade and travel.

Coupled with earlier US assignments in New York and Chicago, John's exposure to business in the US totaled thirteen years.  In Asia Pacific, John served twice in the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, including from 1994 to 1998 as Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister (Economic/Commercial).  John was also Director General for Asia Pacific between 1990 and 1994, giving him over 15 years involvement with the Asian region.  In addition, he represented Canada, principally in business development roles, in West Africa, Central America, the Eastern Caribbean and Australia.

As Managing Partner of his consultancy, W2N2 Partnership, John has undertaken a wide range of consulting and advisory assignments since its founding in 2008, including in partnership with others.  In 2013, John was one of three founding Principals of the Global Investment Attraction Group (GIAG) established to deliver comprehensive multi-year investment attraction and retention strategies and action plans for economic development agencies.  The team draws together seasoned economic development and investment attraction professionals with in-depth front-line operational involvement at the Federal, provincial and municipal levels.

W2N2 Partnership was engaged by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada during 2009 to author a detailed Global Automotive Sector Strategy for Canada and to provide recommendations on foreign investment ‘aftercare’ (business retention).  In March 2010, John was invited by the Ontario Government to be one of four specially selected pro bono panel members providing external advice on its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Cluster Strategy designed to improve Ontario’s global competitiveness. In September and October 2010, he worked with Transport Canada on stakeholder input developed through an Ontario Workshop on Transportation Innovation.  In early 2011, in conjunction with the Global Advantage Consulting Group, John participated in two studies for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) on the structure and prospects for the Southern Ontario economy and its global role.  A further project in 2011 with the Global Advantage Consulting Group, supported strategy development by the Health Technologies Exchange (HTX), a key agency entrusted with the development of the Ontario medical devices sector.  The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) engaged John during 2012 to assess the potential for closer federal-municipal collaboration in international economic development activities, including foreign direct investment. That year, John also led a major study for Global Detroit and its Southeastern Michigan and Windsor-Essex economic development partners examining Detroit-Windsor as a unique bi-national metropolitan border community offering firms potentially advantageous access to two different public policy environments.  In early 2013, John was a major contributor to the development of a strategic plan for the 26-member Canadian Chapter of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP).   During 2013, John also lead the development by the Global Investment Attraction Group (GIAG) of a detailed three-year Foreign Direct Investment Attraction and Retention Strategy and Action Plan for the City of Guelph, followed the next year by an in-depth value proposition for Guelph as a pre-eminent location for agri-food and agri-tech headquarters and knowledge-oriented offices.  GIAG was also engaged in 2014 by Ontario's Halton Region and separately by Wellington County to undertake in-depth analysis of sector priorities for investment attraction and to develop associated value propositions, marketing plans and collateral.  In 2013-2014, John researched and developed a comprehensive value proposition for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada on Canada's leading role in quantum information processing.  John was retained in 2014 by the inaugural Board of Directors of the Stratford Economic Enterprise Development Corporation (SEED Co) to work with them to develop an initial strategic plan.  He also undertook a review in 2014 and 2014 of the role, mandate and structure of the Advisory Board to the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) as it moved into its second five-year mandate as a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR).  John has also been retained to provide strategic advice by the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership, Invest Ottawa, Conestoga College, and the President of the University of Windsor.

During 2009 and 2010, John served as Special Advisor on the African Initiative, one of the largest projects at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the independent, non-partisan, Waterloo-based think-tank that addresses international governance challenges.

John sustains his active public policy role and business networks through memberships in the C.D. Howe Institute, Canadian International Council, International Economic Development Council, Economic Developers Council of Ontario, The Japan Society, Communitech Technology Association, the Forum for International Trade Training, the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

Directorships and advisory board memberships are the principal vehicles by which John offers his counsel to companies and not-for-profit organizations.  John has served on boards and advisory boards of privately-held companies.  In the non-profit sector, John's previous involvement includes the Waterloo Research + Technology Park Accelerator, the Guelph-Waterloo Partnership in Biotechnology, the Great Lakes Manufacturing Council, Michigan Members of the Stratford Festival, Friends of McGill University (US fundraising arm), the Canadian Society of New York, and the Canadian Club of Chicago where he served as President.  John is on the Board of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, serving on the Executive Committee and chairing the Governance Committee.  He currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council at Wilfrid Laurier University’s School of Business and Economics in Waterloo, and on the Advisory Council at York University's Schulich School of Business to develop a national curriculum on international business for Canadian undergraduates, an initiative supported by Export Development Canada. John serves as a Steering Committee member for the Smart Region Initiative for Waterloo Region and Guelph, representing the private-sector.  He is also a member of the Advisory Group to the Canadian Automotive Policy Partnership, a multidisciplinary study of the auto sector by eight professors and 52 post-doctoral fellows and graduate students from McMaster, University of Toronto and Queen's, supported by $2.1 million in funding over five years from Automotive Partnership Canada.

John holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University.  In 2008 John completed the Directors Education Program jointly developed by the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.  He has since been granted the ICD.D professional certification and served until November 2014 as a founding member of the Executive and Secretary of the ICD's Southwestern Ontario Chapter.