Ontario is a highly diverse province, offering an impressive mixture of urban and rural areas. The population is also diverse, with a surging immigrant population and Toronto being recognized as the most diverse city in the world.
Ontario’s economy is also highly diversified, giving entrepreneurs looking to start a business multiple avenues to potentially follow.
But sometimes having many choices can make it hard to decide where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the 12 major industries in Ontario. You can use this guide to decide which business to start – or expand into – in Ontario!
Ontario Industries: 12 Major Industries in Ontario
Ontario has 12 primary industries that are strong and are growing rapidly, in both traditional and cutting-edge industries. Technology and traditional work are merging throughout many of these industries, creating expansion in the economy in these key areas.
Aerospace is a key industry in Ontario, as it serves to design and manufacture parts for many different models of cargo and passenger aircraft. Innovation in the aerospace industry is important in Ontario, too, as its research institutions work to commercialize new technology.
Ontario exported $2.9 billion in aerospace products in 2020 to 186 different countries, showing the strength of this industry.
More than 200 different firms related to aerospace operate in Ontario, directly and indirectly employing more than 38,000 people. Some of the most well-known aerospace companies in the world have a presence in Ontario, including:
Some of these firms operate in sub-industries of the main aerospace industry, including:
Many of the current aerospace companies in Ontario are in the southeast corner of the province (around the GTA, or Greater Toronto Area), meaning new entrepreneurs may want to stick to this area to remain close to potential clients.
Some potential new business opportunities in Ontario related to aerospace include:
The automotive industry in Ontario works with nearly every aspect of car manufacturing, including parts manufacturing, automotive research and development, vehicle assembly, and development of battery technology.
Ontario’s automotive industry has more than 100 years of history, sending parts throughout the world. The modern Ontario automotive industry focuses on technology alongside actual parts.
Ontario’s vehicle production makes it the third largest volume producer among North American jurisdictions. About 124,000 jobs related to automotive manufacturing exist in Ontario.
More than 700 automotive parts suppliers and more than 300 companies involved in connected and autonomous automotive technologies operate in Ontario.
Some of the largest companies working in the automotive industry in Ontario include:
Many of these companies operate along Ontario’s “Automotive Corridor,” which stretches from Windsor to Ottawa. Some sub-industries found inside the main automotive industry in Ontario include:
Ontario entrepreneurs looking for business opportunities related to the automotive industry can consider areas including:
Chemical and Biochemical
Many of the world’s largest chemical and biochemical companies have a presence in Ontario. Among all Canadian provinces, Ontario has the largest chemical manufacturing sector.
Ontario produces about $19 billion annually worth of chemical product shipments, and about three-quarters of that production results in exports. Ontario’s biochemical manufacturing makes use of about 60% of Canada’s corn and soybean supplies.
About 29,000 Ontario residents work in the chemical and biochemical industry’s 700-plus companies.
Some of the chemical firms operating in Ontario include:
Multiple sub-industries operate in Ontario inside the main chemical and biochemical industry, including:
Those looking to start a new business in Ontario related to the chemical and biochemical industry may want to stick to the primary regions where these industries operate, including Sarnia-Lambton, the greater Toronto area, and Eastern Ontario.
Some options for starting businesses in the chemical and biochemical industry or in one of its related sub-industries include:
The cleantech industry is one of Ontario’s largest industries, which surprises many people. It focuses on developing clean energy and in maintaining clean water. In fact, Northern Ontario is home to a gold mine completely powered by batteries, making it the first such mine in the world!
Advancements in the cleantech industry are occurring quickly, meaning opportunities for new entrepreneurs are plentiful.
More than 5,000 companies operate in Ontario with a focus on the environment and on cleantech, generating about $6.6 billion in annual exports. Such companies employ about 117,000 people in the province.
Five Ontario companies landed on the 2021 Global Cleantech Top 100 list, including:
The cleantech industry in Ontario involves quite a few sub-industries and sectors, including:
Starting a new business in Ontario in the cleantech sector provides quite a few opportunities to potential entrepreneurs, with options including:
As the world of financial services undergoes seismic changes, Ontario companies are on the cutting edge of deploying technology and new services.
Toronto is home to Canada’s leading financial district and the Toronto Stock Exchange. But Ontario residents spread throughout the province need the help of financial services professionals, making this sector a popular one for new entrepreneurs in Ontario, regardless of where they’re based.
Some of the world’s largest banks and financial services companies have operations in Ontario, including:
Estimates place about 365,000 Ontario residents working in the financial services industry, which is about half the entire financial services workforce in all of Canada. Some of the sub-industries that fit within the financial services industry include:
Entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Ontario in the financial services industry and in related sub-industries can make use of ideas including:
Food and Beverage Manufacturing
Food and beverage manufacturing touches a lot of areas of the Ontario economy. It can involve everything from processing and packaging of food to transportation and proper storage of beverages.
Within this industry, you’ll find huge companies and single-person businesses. Because Ontario has nearly 50,000 farms, raw materials used in the food and beverage industry are readily available.
The manufacturing sector in Ontario related to food and beverages generates revenues annually of more than $48 billion. This industry generates 18% of the GDP of Ontario’s manufacturing industries, which is the highest among all individual manufacturing industries. Some of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers have a presence in Ontario, including:
More than 3,000 companies operate in Ontario in the food and beverage industry, and they employ nearly 105,000 people. These employees work in a variety of sub-industries related to food and beverages, including:
As an entrepreneur in Ontario, you can tap into many different areas of the food and beverage industry when starting your business in the province, including:
The forestry industry is important to nearly all Canadian provinces, and Ontario is no exception. Ontario makes use of its forestry raw materials in various industries and also exports raw materials and finished wood products throughout the world.
Ontario has 2% of all the forest land in the world, covering more than 70 million hectares. Ontario harvests millions of spruce, Jack pine, and poplar trees each year. It also harvests hundreds of thousands of maple, white pine, balsam fir, and white birch trees yearly.
Annually, Ontario exports almost $7 billion of products and raw materials related to forestry world wide, with the vast majority of those products going to the United States through the Windsor-Detroit trade route.
Some of the largest forestry companies that are members of the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) include:
Ontario’s forest industry generates about $18 billion in total revenues annually and employs almost 150,000 people across Ontario. Some of the sub-industries within forestry where those employees work include:
If you have interest in starting a business in the forestry industry in Ontario, consider some of these business ideas:
Industrial Automation and Robotics
Industrial automation and robotics is a fast-growing industry in Ontario, and it has an influence in many of the other industries on our list. Robotics and industrial automation especially play a big role in manufacturing.
Ontario continues to see billions of dollars of investment annually in advanced manufacturing, much of which relates to industrial automation and robotics. The province estimates having more than 350 companies that focus on robotics and industrial automation.
That doesn’t mean robots will be replacing humans in all types of jobs in Ontario, however. Queen’s University estimates that companies that make significant use of robots also hire 15% more human workers.
It’s difficult to estimate exactly how many Ontario companies are using robotics and industrial automation and to what extent they are using these technologies. But Automate Canada estimates that the number of robots sold annually in Ontario increased 48% over a five-year period. Some of the industries that make use of industrial automation and robotics in Ontario include:
Some areas where entrepreneurs may be able to take advantage of the growing industrial automation and robotics industry include:
Among North American regions, Ontario ranks as the second largest region for information technology companies. Many of the world’s largest tech companies have a presence in Ontario, and nearly half of all IT workers in Canada operate in Ontario.
Ontario generates about $48 billion of GDP each year in the IT sector and generates $8.3 billion in IT-related exports each year. Some of the largest tech companies operating R&D centers in Ontario include:
More than 408,000 people work in Ontario in the information technology industry. Almost 25,000 businesses related to information technology operate in Ontario. Some of the sub-industries in which these businesses operate in the IT industry in the province include:
When preparing to start a new business in Ontario related to the IT industry, consider ideas including:
The majority of IT-related businesses in Ontario operate in the three cities of Ottawa, Toronto, and Waterloo.
Ontario has a strong life sciences industry, involving areas like medical device development, pharmaceutical development, and biotechnology development.
Ontario makes use of multiple institutions to have success in the life sciences industry, including universities, hospitals, research centres, and technology incubators.
Annual revenues in the province’s life sciences industry are nearly $59 billion. Some of the largest companies involved in life sciences that operate in Ontario include:
Ontario is home to 1,900 life sciences firms and 1,300 medical device manufacturing firms that employ about 66,000 people. Some of the sub-industries in which people work in the life sciences industry include:
Entrepreneurs looking to start a new business in Ontario related to the life sciences industry can consider areas including:
Ontario is home to many mineral-rich deposits, and its mining industry is an important one for supplying minerals to industries throughout the province and the world.
Many of the investments in mining in Ontario in modern times relate to finding minerals that can help with the adoption of renewable energy and green technologies.
Ontario had about 300 active mineral exploration projects in 2020, resulting in about $570 million in spending. The value of mineral production in Ontario in 2020 was $11.1 billion.
Ontario has 41 active mines currently, including:
Approximately 28,000 jobs in Ontario are directly involved in mining, while another 47,000 jobs have an indirect reliance on mining. Additionally, 46 universities and colleges in Ontario offer mining, geology, and engineering programs, providing a ready-made workforce for the mining industry. Some of the sub-industries related to the mining industry include:
Some of the businesses that a new entrepreneur in Ontario may want to consider starting in the mining industry include:
Because of the unique mixture of major urban centers and natural beauty, Ontario draws a wide range of tourists. The province’s multiple types of tourism opportunities allow for tourists to visit in all four seasons.
In 2021, Statista estimated Ontario had more than 1.5 million international tourist trips. Ontario receives about 51% of all international tourism visits to Canada each year, resulting in about $36.7 billion of annual economic activity.
Some of the most popular tourist destinations in Ontario include:
About 88,000 businesses in Ontario operate in conjunction with the tourism industry, generating about 395,000 jobs for Ontario residents. Some of the primary sub-industries related to the tourism industry in the province include:
Ideas for entrepreneurs looking for a business they can start related to the Ontario tourism industry include: