Major Industries in Ontario: 12 Best Industries to Start a Business in Ontario

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:

  • Airbus
  • Bombardier
  • Collins Aerospace
  • Honeywell Aerospace
  • L3Harris
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
  • Raytheon Technologies

Some of these firms operate in sub-industries of the main aerospace industry, including:

  • Aircraft development
  • Aircraft electronics
  • Aircraft engines
  • Aircraft landing gear
  • Aircraft structural assembly
  • Original equipment manufacturer for aircraft
  • Space equipment
  • Space systems
  • Unmanned aerial systems

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:

  • Manufacturing: Making specific parts for airplanes or engines.
  • Repair and maintenance: Servicing small aircraft, large aircraft, and manufacturing lines.
  • Warehouse and hangar construction: Constructing large buildings for aircraft storage and repair.
  • Exporting: Facilitating the export of aircraft parts and other equipment to take advantage of the current aerospace export industry Ontario already has.
  • Software: Software development is a key aspect of nearly every aspect of the aerospace industry


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:

  • Ford
  • GM
  • Honda
  • Lear
  • Stellantis
  • Toyota

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:

  • Automotive assembly
  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Automotive parts manufacturing
  • Battery development
  • Electric vehicle (EV) research
  • Exports
  • Original equipment manufacturers

Ontario entrepreneurs looking for business opportunities related to the automotive industry can consider areas including:


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    • Research and development: Work related to developing new technologies like EVs and autonomous vehicle technology.
    • Exporting: Develop businesses that help with exporting automotive products manufactured in Ontario.
    • Manufacturing: Parts manufacturing related to specific automotive models can fill supply gaps in the automotive assembly industry.
    • Repair and maintenance: Start a business that helps with repair and maintenance work at existing automotive manufacturing plants.

    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:

    • BASF
    • CF Industries
    • DuPont
    • Cytec
    • Imperial Oil
    • NOVA Chemicals
    • Shell Canada
    • Suncor

    Multiple sub-industries operate in Ontario inside the main chemical and biochemical industry, including:

    • Basic chemicals
    • Specialty chemicals
    • Biobased chemicals
    • Polymers
    • Resins
    • Additives
    • Fertilizer
    • Industrial gases
    • Petroleum refining

    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:

    • Export: Start an export business that facilitates moving the chemical products safely.
    • Raw materials: Consider providing the raw materials required for chemical and biochemical manufacturing.
    • Research and development: Partner with educational institutions to find new ways to refine chemicals and to use them.
    • Repair and maintenance: Focus on providing services to help with repairs and maintenance work at chemical refineries and similar plants.


    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:

    • Ecobee
    • GaN Systems
    • Li-Cycle
    • Opus One Solutions
    • Parity

    The cleantech industry in Ontario involves quite a few sub-industries and sectors, including:

    • Alternative fuel technologies
    • Battery recycling
    • Battery technology
    • Energy efficiency research
    • EV charging
    • Power transistors
    • Renewable power development
    • Smart home technology
    • Solar power technology
    • Water treatment solutions

    Starting a new business in Ontario in the cleantech sector provides quite a few opportunities to potential entrepreneurs, with options including:

    • Research and development: Create new ways to generate power in a clean way or to remediate problems with water pollution.
    • Developing green products: Manufacture and develop sustainable products to use in retail and manufacturing.
    • Consulting: Help existing Ontario businesses find ways to improve their performance in terms of energy efficiency and the use of sustainable products.
    • Solar panels: Help consumers who may have an interest in buying and installing solar panels.
    • Smart home installations: Advise and help homeowners and business owners looking to install smart products to manage energy.

    Financial Services

    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:

    • Allstate
    • American Express
    • Bank of America
    • Bank of China
    • Bank of Nova Scotia
    • Citigroup
    • Deutsche Bank
    • Goldman Sachs
    • JP Morgan
    • Royal Bank of Canada
    • Royal Bank of Scotland
    • TD Bank

    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:

    • Accounting
    • Financial advisory
    • Banking
    • Investment banking
    • Lending
    • Venture capital
    • Real estate management
    • Tax advisory
    • Stock trading
    • Financial consulting for businesses

    Entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Ontario in the financial services industry and in related sub-industries can make use of ideas including:

    • Professional accounting: Ontario has about 88,000 CPAs who provide professional accounting services.
    • Consulting: Financial professionals can perform consulting work with companies looking to cut expenses.
    • Retirement planner: Help people develop a financial plan that saves money for retirement.
    • Real estate appraisal: Those looking to sell a home or business property in Ontario need an appraisal to develop an accurate valuation for the property.

    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:

    • Anheuser-Busch InBev
    • Cargill
    • Coca Cola
    • Kellogg’s
    • Kraft Heinz
    • Maple Leaf Foods
    • Mars
    • Mondelez
    • Nestle
    • PepsiCo
    • Unilever

    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:

    • Agriculture
    • Beverage exporting
    • Bottling of beverages
    • Food exporting
    • Food manufacturing
    • Food processing
    • Packaging
    • Specialty importers
    • Storage
    • Transportation

    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:

    • Research and development: Look to create new food products, new beverage products, or new ways to package these products.
    • Farming: Start a farm that specializes in providing specialized crops or ingredients for food manufacturers.
    • Transportation: Food manufacturers need transportation operations to bring raw materials to the factory and to move finished products to retailers.
    • Specialized storage: Warehouses can store food products, some of which may need specialized storage conditions, like low humidity or low temperatures.
    • Exporting: Find new markets outside Ontario and outside Canada to sell various food and beverage products.


    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:

    • Atlantic Power
    • Cascades
    • Columbia Forest Products
    • Freymond Lumber
    • Georgia-Pacific
    • Haliburton Forest
    • Herb Shaw and Sons
    • Longlac Lumber
    • Manitou Forest Products
    • Nakina Lumber
    • Rockshield

    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:

    • Logging
    • Pulp and paper manufacturing
    • Replanting forests
    • Timber trade
    • Transportation
    • Wood processing

    If you have interest in starting a business in the forestry industry in Ontario, consider some of these business ideas:

    • Transportation: Start a business that transports raw materials and products related to forestry throughout Ontario and elsewhere.
    • Repair and maintenance: Tools related to logging and wood products manufacturing require regular repair and maintenance.
    • Exporting: Facilitate deals to sell and transport Ontario wood products elsewhere in the country and world.
    • Manufacturing: Create furniture and other finished wood products.

    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:

    • Energy
    • Food and beverage
    • Forestry
    • Health sciences
    • Manufacturing
    • Mining
    • Telecommunications
    • Transportation

    Some areas where entrepreneurs may be able to take advantage of the growing industrial automation and robotics industry include:

    • Repair and maintenance: The machines that help with robotics and automation need repair and maintenance services regularly.
    • Software: Programming machines related to robotics and automation can be an important business.
    • Consulting: Businesses considering adding robotics to a manufacturing line may need help from a consultant to best determine how to spend their money.
    • Research and development: Start a business that researches new ways to incorporate robotics and automation.

    Information Technology

    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:

    • Amazon
    • Apple
    • BlackBerry
    • Cisco
    • Google
    • IBM
    • Intel
    • LG
    • Microsoft
    • NVIDIA
    • Oracle
    • Pinterest
    • Samsung
    • Shopify

    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:

    • Computing hardware
    • Network hardware
    • Coding
    • Software
    • Cybersecurity
    • Smart technologies
    • Wireless communications
    • Data services
    • Artificial intelligence
    • Consulting
    • Gaming and entertainment

    When preparing to start a new business in Ontario related to the IT industry, consider ideas including:

    • Consulting: Help existing businesses figure out how to make use of information technology to improve performance and profits.
    • Hardware installation: Install networking and communications equipment that give businesses the tools they need.
    • App and game development: Use coding skills to create apps and games.
    • Research and development: Develop new ideas for making use of emerging technologies, like Internet of Things (IoT) and smart home products.

    The majority of IT-related businesses in Ontario operate in the three cities of Ottawa, Toronto, and Waterloo.

    Life Sciences

    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:

    • Abbott
    • Apotex
    • Baxter
    • Conavi
    • Eurofins
    • Johnson & Johnson
    • Octane
    • OmniaBio
    • Resilience
    • Roche
    • Sanofi
    • Southmedic
    • Stryker
    • Synaptive
    • Takeda

    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:

    • Biophysics
    • Biotechnology
    • Biomedical technology
    • Cell biology
    • Cosmeceuticals
    • Environmental sciences
    • Food processing
    • Medical devices
    • Neuroscience
    • Nutraceuticals
    • Pharmaceuticals

    Entrepreneurs looking to start a new business in Ontario related to the life sciences industry can consider areas including:

    • Research and development: Perform research into areas where new products related to life sciences could appear.
    • Repair and maintenance: Highly specialized equipment is often part of life sciences, and such equipment needs repair occasionally.
    • Storage: Some products in use in life sciences need special storage requirements, including controlled temperature.
    • Recruiting: Life sciences companies need highly trained employees with specialized skills, and a recruiter can help find these employees.


    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:

    • 9 base metal mines for nickel, copper, and zinc
    • 21 gold mines
    • 1 platinum-palladium mine
    • 1 iron mine
    • 9 mineral mines

    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:

    • Construction at mining site
    • Engineering
    • Exploration
    • Heavy equipment operation
    • Metallurgy
    • Mineral processing
    • Mining equipment
    • Mining operations
    • Site management
    • Surveying
    • Trucking

    Some of the businesses that a new entrepreneur in Ontario may want to consider starting in the mining industry include:

    • Maintenance and repair: Mining companies use highly specialized equipment that needs regular maintenance.
    • Equipment rental: Offer rentals of equipment that mining companies only need to use on occasion.
    • Trucking: For mining operations located in remote areas, the mining company may need regular deliveries of supplies.
    • Consultant: A new company could provide consultancy services to mining companies to help them decide whether a certain claim is a good investment for expansion.


    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:

    • Algonquin Provincial Park
    • Bruce Peninsula National Park
    • Casa Loma Castle in Toronto
    • Great Lakes
    • Greater Sudbury’s 330 lakes
    • Hamilton’s historical sites
    • Muskoka’s water recreational opportunities
    • Niagara Falls
    • Ottawa, Canada’s national capital
    • Sault Ste. Marie’s historical sites
    • Thousand Islands
    • Thunder Bay’s natural forests, lakes, and hiking trails
    • Toronto
    • Wasaga Beach

    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:

    • Hotel and motel
    • Restaurant
    • Recreational equipment rental
    • Vehicle rental
    • Boat rental
    • Tour guide
    • Camping ground
    • Cabin rental
    • Entertainment options
    • RV sales and service

    Ideas for entrepreneurs looking for a business they can start related to the Ontario tourism industry include:

    • Bed and breakfast: Provide a location for tourists to stay that serves an alternative to the traditional hotel.
    • Travel blogging: Give tourists ideas about activities in which they can participate through a blog.
    • Restaurant: In an area where tourists frequently visit, give them a restaurant that features local cuisine and recipes.
    • Retail: Start a souvenir shop or a store that contains locally made products for tourists to purchase.
    • Recreational guide: Golfers, hunters, skiers, hikers, and fishermen visiting Ontario may want guides to help them figure out the best recreational opportunities.

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