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 as well through the Global Investment Attraction Group (GIAG).
Managing Partner, W2N2 Partnership, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario – 2008 – Present
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. W2N2 Partnership was engaged by Global Affairs 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). In 2013-2014, John researched and developed a comprehensive value proposition for Global Affairs Canada on Canada’s leading role in quantum information processing. Subsequently, in 2020-2021, John was engaged by the National Research Council of Canada to assess the potential for collaboration on quantum technologies with the United Kingdom and Germany. John was retained in 2014 by the inaugural Board of Directors of the Stratford Economic Enterprise Development Corporation (investStratford) to develop an initial strategic plan. He also undertook a review in 2014 and 2015 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.
Co-Founder and Partner, Global Investment Attraction Group, Kitchener, Ontario – 2013 – 2020
John was one of the three Partners who established the Global Investment Attraction Group (GIAG) in 2013 to deliver comprehensive multi-year investment attraction and retention strategies and action plans for economic development agencies. The team drew together seasoned economic development and investment attraction professionals with in-depth front-line operational involvement at the Federal, provincial and municipal levels. John led the GIAG project team that was selected in 2015 to provide strategic advisory services for the creation of Toronto Global, a new regional investment attraction agency for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), covering the corporate structure, operating model, mandate, high-level strategy, and the organization’s relationship with the funding GTA municipalities, along with the Federal and Ontario governments. John was project lead for a detailed three-year Foreign Direct Investment Attraction and Retention Strategy and Action Plan for the City of Guelph, followed the subsequent 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. John also headed the development of the first economic development strategic plan for Dufferin County, and, in parallel, an update to the strategic plan for its largest community, the Town of Orangeville. John led the development of a Corporate Strategic Plan and an economic development strategy for the Town of Erin. GIAG also completed comprehensive multi-year economic development strategic plans for Durham Region, the Town of Lincoln, and the City of St. Catharines. The St. Catharines assignment followed an earlier Targeted Manufacturing Investment Strategy for the City. Previously, John led a project with the Stratford Economic Enterprise Development Corporation (investStraford) to refine strategies and create an integrated three-year action plan. GIAG was also engaged 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. GIAG also undertook assignments for Brock University and Niagara Region.
Chief Executive Officer, Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc., Waterloo Region, Ontario – 2002 – 2008
From 2002 to 2008, John served as 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. CTT Inc. is a predecessor organization to the Waterloo EDC. Under John’s leadership, CTT 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. CTT 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 productive R&D relationships 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.
Global Affairs Canada, Ottawa and Canadian Missions Abroad
Culminating his career with Global Affairs Canada (formerly 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.
Director and Advisory Roles
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 was on the Board of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony for six years, serving on the Executive Committee and chairing the Governance Committee. He currently chairs the Dean’s Advisory Council at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics in Waterloo. Previously, he was 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 is a member of the Canada Korea Business Council (CKBC) Advisory Council. He also served as a member of the Advisory Group to McMaster University’s Automotive Policy Research Centre which received $2.1 million in funding over five years from Automotive Partnership Canada to undertake multidisciplinary studies of the auto sector and policies involving professors, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students from McMaster, University of Toronto and Queen’s. Also during 2016, at the request of Ray Tanguay, Special Automotive Advisor to the Federal and Ontario governments, John led the ad hoc investment attraction sub-committee assisting Mr. Tanguay in formulating his input to the governments.
Speaker and Moderator
John has been a speaker and moderator at many conferences. For example, at the 2018 International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Leadership Summit, John was a panellist on the topic “Best Practices in Operating a Regional FDI Organization.” At the 2012 Leadership Summit in San Antonio (TX), John facilitated a round table on “It’s a Global World”. At the same event in 2009 in Tempe (AZ), John spoke on the topic “Financing Partnerships within Your Region” which addressed unique funding sources and solutions to build and support regional partnerships. At the time of NAFTA’s renegotiation, John was a speaker on a panel discussion, “NAFTA and the Auto Industry,” at the 2018 Canada-United States Law Institute Annual Conference, “Back to the Future,” at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He was also an expert panelist at the 2017 Automotive Policy Research Centre Workshop on the “Impacts of Potential Trade and Tax Policy Changes on Automotive Trade within the Great Lakes Region.” He arranged and moderated a panel at the 2015 Great Lakes Economic Forum in Chicago on “Economic Corridors and Clusters.” John moderated an expert panel on “Canada’s Trade Opportunities with the U.S., Europe and China/India” at I.E. Canada’s 78th Annual Conference, “Best Practices in Global Trade and Customs”, in Toronto in October 2009. John also delivered guest lectures on Economic Development and Investment Attraction in 2016 and 2017 to a course on the Theory and Practice of Public Policy which was offered as part of the Master of Engineering and Public Policy (MEPP) degree offered by McMaster University in Hamilton.
John sustains his active public policy role and business networks through memberships in the C.D. Howe Institute, the Canadian International Council, the Japan Society, Communitech Technology Association, the Royal Canadian Military Institute, the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.
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 served as a founding member of the Executive and Secretary of the ICD’s Southwestern Ontario Chapter until November 2014.