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Tech hub hopes to diversify Canmore’s economy

A new tech hub in Canmore is hoping to attract startup businesses and innovative entrepreneurs to the community.

A new tech hub in Canmore is hoping to attract startup businesses and innovative entrepreneurs to the community.

Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce President Brian McLure said Innovate Canmore is a vibrant co-work space initiative focused on stimulating economic development and diversification in the community.

“We are focused very much on the technology sector as a potential diversification initiative for the town of Canmore,” McLure said at council in September. “And not only diversification, but the potential opportunity to enhance our economic resilience beyond the dependency we presently have on the tourism sector.”

Phase one for Innovate Canmore is to establish to co-working space for research and software development this fall. Part of the success depends on Innovate Canmore acquiring access to the Supernet – a high-speed fibre network that requires acces through the municipality.

McLure said he was happy to announce that agreements in principle were reached with the municipality and Axia, the company that operates the SuperNet and installed 13,000 kilometres of fibre needed for the provincial government to start the fibre-optic cable service more than a decade ago.

The SuperNet feeds into Elevation Place and the agreement with Innovate Canmore provides wireless access to it from the rooftop – which is in direct sightline of the tech hub’s new location at Railway Avenue and 10th Street, in co-shared office space with the Chamber.

With already eight to 10 startups interested in the tech hub, different applications for work being done there could include clean tech, machine intelligence, medical diagnostics, enterprise technology and energy, according to McLure.

The future space from which Innovate Canmore would operate, however, is located in the Shops of Canmore, which should be completed by local developer Neil Tanner in fall 2018. The SuperNet would work there too, said McLure, and the high-speed fibre-optic connection is critical to its success.

But phase two is where council comes into the equation, said McLure, as Innovate Canmore would like support from elected officials to undertake a complete feasibility study to establish what could be a 40,000 to 60,000 square foot tech research and development facility in the valley.

“Basically, we are looking to see if we can start to move in that direction fairly quickly by requesting $25,000 in funding from the Town of Canmore’s economic development fund to enable us to do a detailed feasibility study on the viability of developing a research and development facility,” he said.

“In essence, we believe the initiatives the provincial and federal governments are taking to invest in technology development is a place Canmore is well positioned to move into and take advantage of the economic uplift associated with that kind of facility.”

The request for funding is set to return on Oct. 3 and Councillor Sean Krausert and Mayor John Borrowman both said they welcomed the idea of a tech hub that could drive economic diversification for the community further.

“I am very interested in this evolving conversation and very supportive of this moving forward in our community,” Borrowman said. “I have been advocating for this kind of diversification initiative to be encouraged by the town for over 20 years.”

The result of economic diversification into this sector, he said, would result in young professionals, well educated with good salaries, to be positioned to move to the community and work locally instead of commuting to the city for this kind of work.

“We feel Canmore is exceptionally well placed to attract the type of people who do this research,” he said.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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