Lisa Van De Geyn photo leaning on building with really cool glasses

Back before COVID-19 was in our lexicon (and prior to using words like “unprecedented,” “social distancing,” “PPE” and “flattening the curve”), the wee team at The Spark was busy conceptualizing our Summer 2020 issue. Dubbed “the Cannabis Issue,” it was going to be a fun one — we were all thinking green. Cannabis is a big deal in eastern Ontario’s innovation corridor — there are several shops, clinics and world-class indoor growing facilities. It’s an industry that was flourishing, with entrepreneurs and investors clambering to get involved.

I think it’s safe to assume you know what happened next. The virus hit. 

When it came time for our team — our wonderful publisher Kristina Svana, designer extraordinaire Melanie Marler, wordsmith Melissa Nowakowski and advertising and circulation guru Frank Auddino — to get on the horn (and later Zoom) with one another to look at our editorial lineup, we instantly knew we had to change course. Cannabis is a great topic, but best left for a post-pandemic time. Instead, we started talking about the incredible companies we were hearing about in the media and through friends and colleagues — companies that were switching gears, retooling, hunkering down and changing operations to create the items Ontario was in desperate need of to help get through COVID. We heard about distilleries and breweries retooling to make much-needed hand sanitizer. We heard about automotive companies changing course to make gowns and face masks. Hockey equipment manufacturers put the brakes on their regular production and started making face shields. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford called on skilled Canadians and Ontarians to make everything we were lacking, from personal protective equipment to ventilators, Ontario-based businesses rallied. They heard the fraught calls and sprang into action. 
When we asked the Honourable Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade , to comment on what our businesses have done in this time of crisis, he put it marvellously: “The Ontario spirit of innovation and problem-solving is nothing short of amazing. Since the start of this pandemic, businesses across the province have been retooling to make PPE and other essential supplies and we are extremely proud of these made-in-Ontario solutions.”  
Our magazine isn’t saving lives like the hundreds of businesses that retooled, but our pivot meant a great deal to us, and we hope you read this issue and feel a sense of gratitude. We’re proud to bring you the stories in the pages that follow, and we ask that you commend and applaud the brilliant innovators who came through for our families and our province. 
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