More help and innovations are here for businesses in Estevan

Southeast Innovation Business Development Center is an umbrella for various business support initiatives, aimed at growing and diversifying Estevan’s economy amid the forced changes in the local coal power industry.

ESTEVAN – Estevan keeps generating more resources for existing and future businesses.

On May 18, the City of Estevan invited the community to join them at 403A Ninth Avenue to celebrate the grand opening of the new and enhanced Southeast Innovation Business Development Center. The organization became an umbrella for various business support initiatives, aimed at growing and diversifying Estevan’s economy amid the forced changes in the local coal power industry.

Councillors and the major, representatives of Sask INC and Innovation Saskatchewan, the Estevan Economic Development Board, members of Estevan and Weyburn chambers of commerce, Southeast Newcomer Services, St. Mary’s School students, the Estevan Public Library, local entrepreneurs and residents attended a full-day event to learn more about opportunities Estevan has to offer.

“Just as the longest journey begins with a single step, we must take advantage of the ingenious ideas that are being generated and developed one idea at a time,” said Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig in his opening remarks.

“With environmental restraints on our coal industry, we were being forced to pivot to other areas that will create sustainable, well-paying jobs. One of these areas is tech. We must move, embrace and accept this change in a positive posture, or we will lose opportunities and get left behind. We are very excited to move forward in some of these areas with the intention of creating job opportunities and growth for our community. “

Councillor Rebecca Foord, who is also the chair of the city’s innovation board, said the Southeast Innovation Business Development Center will be a one-stop shop for the community with the Southeast Business Start-up, Estevan Economic Development lead, Community Futures Sunrise and Saskatchewan’s very first rural technology hub all under one roof to give businesses all the support they may need.

“This center is going to be crucial for accessing business start-up information, finding ways to innovate your current business in this changing age of technology, finding learning opportunities and connecting with some incredibly knowledgeable people. Connecting with such a vast network of information and people is ultimately setting up the center’s users for success, ”Foord said.

“The rural tech hub is a one of a kind in this province. It attracting tech innovation and entrepreneurs … It will provide learning opportunities with Microsoft, and other partners will be used in the education sector for young students, wanting to learn about technology… and will help Estevan stay competitive in the world of technology, ”she added.

Richard Sadick, the city’s coal transition and economic development co-ordinator, explained that the current collaboration between different organizations under the Southeast Innovation Business Development Center’s roof will make many things easier for future and existing businesses. And while each organization now occupying an office at the new hub has its own area of ​​expertise, their common goal is to grow Estevan’s economy.

“If you’re a new startup, and you are wanting advice, you will come to this building, and you can get it all here. You can talk to Jeff Taylor about how do I start a business? How do I get on the website? How do I design a website? etc.… My job is to draw bigger business into town, mostly because of what is happening with the coal-fired power station… And we’re getting things that are happening very soon, there will be some announcements that are going to make some big changes, big difference in this city… And then we’ve got the tech hub, which is something totally different… That’s another element where we’re trying to get people like Microsoft to come in , ”Sadick explained.

He added that Community Futures Sunrise – experts in funding for small businesses, who are covering the southeast, but are based out of Weyburn – will also be working out of the new space for a few days a week to help the people of Estevan with their business needs.

Kari Harvey, CEO of Innovation Saskatchewan, who joined the celebration on behalf of the provincial government, noted that the new hub is a great realization of the provincial plan for growing the tech sector.

“What an exciting initiative supporting innovation, entrepreneurship, workforce development and tech job creation in Estevan and the surrounding communities,” Harvey said. “Our province is driven by innovation and home to a growing technology sector, which includes many startups that have captured national and international attention. Innovation Saskatchewan has a mission to foster this innovation in our province. As a government agency, we act as a catalyst to spur innovation, science, research and technology. “

Harvey noted the government believes that technology is key to growth in the province, and the plan is to triple the tech sector by 2030.The goal is now underway and the results are noticeable. To give an idea of ​​how much the sector is growing, she pointed out that the province saw about $ 210 million of venture capital come into Saskatchewan last year compared to $ 15 million in 2016.

“Innovations from Saskatchewan tech companies are being used by research scientists, restaurants, project management companies, hair salons and other diverse clients worldwide. Imagine the jobs that these companies are creating. High-value good-paying jobs and technology. Everyone in this province deserves the opportunity to participate in and benefit from our growing digital economy. And that’s why initiatives like the Southeast Innovation Business Development Center are so important. They create an environment that is essential to support entrepreneurs while developing their companies, ”Harvey said.

Susan Letsche, CEO and founder of Sask INC – The Innovation Network Community, talked more about what the rural technology hub that is a part of the Southeast Innovation Business Development Center will offer.

“Rural technology hub is education, it’s mentorship, it’s support, and probably early ideation, pre-acceleration, programming. This means if you have an idea, and you come in and say I have an idea, but I’m not sure how to get it started, we could connect you through the co-labs program, perhaps the cultivator program, there are other sorts of programming that will connect into and leverage as opposed to recreating anything at this time. And if we end up with six or eight people who want to start off a program, then we’ll look at that. But right now, it’s about connection into the larger ecosystem that exists already, ”Letsche explained.

St. Mary’s Grade 8 students attended the grand opening as well to learn about their future opportunities and also to present their innovation projects to a panel for feedback. Letsche noted that it was important for them to get tech-involved youth to learn about great opportunities they can access right here at home.

The Estevan Public Library was also on hand that day to showcase their Makers Space equipment. Branch manager Jason Redshaw said that not only do they use a lot of innovations in the library as part of their programming and services, but they also offer many innovative and often very handy opportunities to the people of Estevan at no charge. They provide anything from free Wi-Fi to button maker, to Cricut Explorer Air 2 for many design projects, to Ozobit Evo, allowing people to program and play, code and more.

“I wanted to make this available to the public. So we opened up a Maker Space,” Redshaw said. “For example, for the Cricut machine, we’ve had people make special signs with it. You can also cut and design T-shirt logos with it. There was a person who was doing a business and need a business T-shirt… so they came in and used our Cricut and created a business T-shirt. “

Library also gives access to thousands of electronic books, audiobooks and magazines, including tech and business-oriented.

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