April 26th, 2016

Communities that have long been economically dependent on traditional industries such as manufacturing and resources are being forced to look for alternative economic development initiatives to remain economically vibrant. Diversification is also a critical component for stable and continued economic growth. One would have to look no further than Alberta’s dependence on the Oil & Gas industries and the massive fluctuations in their economy due to unpredictable changes in the oil markets.

Many believe that entrepreneurial startups should be the focus of future economic development initiatives and are the key drivers of economic diversification, job creation and will have significant positive influence on long-term sustainable growth.

In a 2010 report published by Tim Kane from the Kauffman Foundation, he states that 100% of net job growth in the U.S. comes from entrepreneurial startups and that if you took startups out of the picture and looked only at large or incumbent businesses, job growth over the last 35 years would actually be negative. In the words of Kauffman's Tim Kane, "When it comes to job growth, startup companies aren't everything.... They’re the only thing."

Tim Mallet, Vice President and Chief Economist at the CFIB, supports this thinking stating that, “Independent businesses and startups are the vital sources of energy on which communities grow and flourish.”

Granted that not all of the startups referenced by Kane and Mallet are technology based, it is undeniable that technology based companies are some of the most valuable in the world, they build products and services we all use everyday and they will continue to be a major force in the global economy for the foreseeable future.

For forward thinking communities committed to economic diversification through technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, it is essential that they create an environment for success by providing entrepreneurs and startups the necessary services & support to start and grow companies; right from the earliest stages of development through to market validation and commercialization.

Working in partnership with government agencies, entrepreneurs, industry, academia, civic leaders and the private sector, the Okanagan Centre for Innovation (OCI) will provide these services & support and serve the entire Okanagan community as the hub of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.

How will we do this? At the heart of the OCI is business incubation space that will encourage the development of new innovative products and services by creating an effective link between startup entrepreneurs and the talent, research, technology, funding, mentorship, education and know-that is essential to their growth and success.

The OCI is a true public private partnership that has received financial support from the Provincial and Federal governments for the development of the business incubation space, the city of Kelowna and the Federal government for the development of a presentation theatre, community partners Accelerate Okanagan and Okanagan College to provide entrepreneurial development, training and education services and Telus who will provide wireless technology infrastructure & services throughout all the public areas of the OCI.

Commercial space in the OCI will be leased out to companies at all stages of maturity that are involved in or support the local tech community. Many of theses company executives have committed to spending time with startup entrepreneurs; sharing their knowledge, connections and lessons learned. They are excited to do so because they understand the importance of the #GiveFirst ethos (see previous post) and want to help accelerate the growth of our tech community. They are also continually looking for competitive advantage and believe that technology-based startups provide a tremendous source of innovation.

Through intelligent economic development initiatives like the OCI, and with the incredible support of our public and private partners, its our mission for the Okanagan to become the best place in Canada for entrepreneurs to start and grow innovative, creative, technology-based companies, diversify the local economy and create a solid foundation for long-term economic success.

Jeff Keen
Okanagan Centre For Innovation

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