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By Emily Bellavy

Business students should pursue graduate studies, learn solid management skills and lead Canada into the globalized world, General Electric Canada chief executive officer and president Elyse Allan said.

Allan was speaking at the 19th annual Ryerson Business Forum. This year’s theme was international expansion: gaining a competitive advantage.

“We are facing a historic reshaping of the economic landscape. It is an opportunity for those who are prepared. It is an incredible opportunity, with abundant rewards,” Allan said.

Allan, who received an honorary PhD from Ryerson in 2005, discussed the globalization and Canada’s role in in developing markets.

About 300 Ryerson business students attended last Wednesday’s event, held in Queen Street West’s Arcadian Court. She said Canadians should embrace new economies such as China and India, rather than be threatened by them.

“The rise of a new economic power can actually help lift the entire global economy. The idea that the rising tide does lift all ships. I think it can be that way today,” she said. Such competition drives Canadian industry by creating new markets.

“Will competition destroy us? Hardly. It will make us stronger,” she said. Allan returned to work directly after her presentation, and she wasn’t alone.

John Sharpe, Chairman of the Board for Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, had made travel arrangements to fly from Scottsdale, Arizona to Toronto so he could attend the RBF. Later that afternoon he would fly back to Arizona. Sharpe cancelled at the last minute. Undeterred, Harry Gwartz, vice-president of speakers for the RBF, said Sharpe’s attempt was valiant. “(It) shows the strength of the business forum and the sacrifices business leaders are willing to make to attend,” Gwartz said.

Other speakers included David Moore, president and CEO of Leo Burnett Company Ltd., Pat Wilkinson (pictured), director of marketing for Home Depot Canada, and Alex Tilley, founder and chairman of Tilley Endurables, Inc. Ryerson’s business school is the largest undergraduate business program in Canada, and is introducing two Master’s of Business Administration programs this fall. “People understand that what we’re seeing now is a new Ryerson.

This is not the old Ryerson from 20 years ago, when it was basically a rising star,” Professor Roy Morley, faculty advisor for the RBF, said. The RBF is a chance for students to network with high-profile speakers over a luncheon and speeches. “It’s an opportunity for students to hopefully be able to come out and network with industry leaders, as well as to be inspired by these speakers,” Maryam Mohammad, president of the RBF, said.

Before leaving, Allan said future business leaders must be empathetic, courageous, and have a specific expertise to drive Canada forward in the new world economy. “We need to develop more good managers and leaders… We still have far fewer students going on to business graduate school than in the U.S. The lack of management has a direct link to our lagging productivity,” she said. Allan expressed concern over the lack of engineering and business management graduates in Canada.

“China and India are leading in brainpower. They graduate half a million engineers and scientists a year,” Allan said.

Allan encouraged the students to pursue business management education, stressing the importance of quality management in a well-run company.

“We need people who can bring management innovation into the workplace,” Allan said. — with files from Jordan Morningstar

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