Alumnus continues to sell city, university

Kapil Lakhotia has advocated for the Forest City for more than a decade. And not just because of his job description.

This summer, the King’s University College grad, BA’02 (Economics), took up the post of interim general manager of the London Economic Development Corp. (LEDC). He followed Peter White, who left as LEDC president and CEO to be Western’s new executive director, government relations and strategic partnerships.

Throughout Lakhotia’s 10-year tenure with the organization, he has been responsible for attracting various international investments, including Germany’s Dr. Oetker.

After completing his MA in economics at the University of Waterloo in 2003, Lakhotia moved back to London to work as an economist with the LEDC, later moving into business development. Eager to praise both his alma mater and the Forest City, his job of selling the city proved an easy task.

“I love the city and I think I’m here to stay,” said Lakhotia, originally from the Greater Toronto Area. “You get used to a certain lifestyle in London. It’s hard to complain – the commute times, cost of housing, quality of living. You get used to that and you start expecting it in other communities. The short time I spent in Waterloo and the university there, I just realized it wasn’t the same as what I got in London.

“You start comparing London and you realize very quickly it’s a very nice set-up (here). A lot of people consider the grass as greener on the other side. I’m one to view it as the grass is greener here.”

London’s diversity contributes greatly to its appeal, and to its past, present and future success, Lakhotia said. And the university contributes to the city’s multifaceted economy.

“The unique features of London are such that we have a very diverse economy. We’re not very heavily focused on just one element of manufacturing; we really have quite a broad base of industries. But we’re equally aggressive in the knowledge-based economies, technology, life sciences and so forth,” he noted.

“Increasingly, London’s economy is transitioning into a more knowledge-based economy, a knowledge-intensive economy,” he continued, adding the LEDC is dedicated to partnering with Western on research and development initiatives, such as the Fraunhofer Project Centre at the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Park.

Likewise, Lakhotia is excited about the university’s potential partnership with the city in bolstering the new Medical Innovation and Commercialization Network, noting the initiative is building on a strength sure to benefit the local and medical communities.

“London is a hub for medical innovation, all the way back from when insulin was discovered, to the modern day, where robotic assisted surgeries are being performed and really novel technologies are coming from London,” he said.

It’s not just the comfortable lifestyle, but also the promise and opportunities London offers that’s keeping Lakhotia, his wife and year-old son rooted in the Forest City.

“The economic development space is very interesting. It’s challenging and it’s very rewarding at the end of the day to come back knowing you’ve made a tangible difference in terms of creating employment opportunities for a lot of people in London,” he explained.

“I’ve gotten a good handle on the entire landscape and I’ve been involved in a lot of planning exercises. I see myself (in the future) still engaged with the LEDC. Creating opportunities for local economies to grow an employment base and create new projects is something I really enjoy doing.”

Having taught Economics at Western throughout the years, Lakhotia hopes to return to the classroom one day. It’s a matter of resources and time for him. In the meantime, he enjoys spending time at home with family, spending time outdoors and keeping fit, alongside a hefty portfolio at work.

“I’ve always enjoyed teaching and at some point, I’d like to come back. It’s just not in the cards for the immediate future. I had a great time at Western; I loved the university and loved the campus. I missed it, when I was at Waterloo.”