The CEO of Simons says the company “had to move fast” to secure funding from outside investors for the first time ever in order to push ahead with growth plans amid a changing retail environment.

Peter Simons told BNN Bloomberg on Friday that he felt his company, one of Canada’s oldest privately owned family retailers, “had to do this investment.”

“I looked around at the alternatives. There were obviously a number of them, but we couldn’t wait,” Simons said. “We could have sat around and accumulated the funds for two or three years, but two or three years in our era is an eternity.”

“I thought we had to move fast and we had to put this deal together,” he added.

Earlier this week, the company announced that it had struck a deal with two public-sector companies – Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Investissement Québec for funding to build a new distribution centre in the province.

Caisse will make a $27 million investment in Simons, while Investissement Quebec will give $17 million. The Quebec government will also lend the company $81 million.

After opening a number of new stores across Canada over the last five years, Simons said the retailer was seeing “exponential growth” on its e-commerce business to go along with good growth in its bricks-and-mortar side.

“You have to be able to use technology to move your way through the complexity of [an] omni-channel [business],” he said. “We had to work on our productivity.”

Automation will be a big part of that technological push in the new distribution centre, Simons said.

“The core, I think, today in terms of creating quality jobs… It’s not a question of jobs in Quebec  – [with] unemployment at 3.8 per cent,” he said. “It’s a question of creating quality productive jobs, and I think that’s one of the key things that companies have to start thinking about: How they’re applying math, automation[and] giving the tools to their workers so they can maximize their productivity.”