By Nate Dolha
Publish: Feb. 2, 2013
Recently, a lot of the discussion around economic development in Squamish is centred on the traditional bricks and mortar business.
Manufacturing, raw resource extraction and transportation etc. were the economic engine for the last century, but do those industries hold any promise for our future?
Well, yes and no…
We all know a change that occurred across the western world, and our town is no exception: Manufacturing has shifted to the developing world.
We have seen much of our industrial tax base close up shop, and I believe you’d be hard pressed to convince anyone that it will return.
With this shift, the western world started a reboot, and started replacing many lost industrial jobs with knowledge work.
I think the same shift has begun here in Squamish as well, but could use a bit of reinforcement.
So, what is needed to strengthen that gen-next economy in Squamish?
I posed the question to Craig Cherlet, President of WYSIWYG Ventures, a Squamish based marketing and management consulting firm.
Encouraging entrepreneurship was a constant theme in our exchange, starting with the idea of using incubators as a means to encourage the development of knowledge based industries on a regional scale.
Simply put, Squamish need an incubator that can focus on supporting start-ups and knowledge based ventures.
The Austin Technology Incubator in Austin, Texas, is a great example of a technology incubator that was put together by a group of community partners; a university, local, regional, and state governments.
Mixed with a generous helping of venture capital, they have cooked up a recipe that has generated dozens of companies and hundreds of millions of dollars in value.
Most importantly, they have created an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is beginning to drive their regional economy forward.
Bringing resources together is just one part of the equation; supporting people as they make the decision to work for themselves is another important.
Techstars, which presents itself as a ‘Startup Accelerator’, focuses its attention and resources on building successful businesses.
Closer to home, the City of Vancouver has set out to build a hybrid technology incubator and accelerator, called the Vancouver Technology Centre.
It’s goal is to “deliver incubation and acceleration business development services for early-stage technology and social innovation companies”.
Now, I can hear the question already: How does this apply to Squamish?
If we take a 30,000-ft view of the situation, we know that many of the industrial jobs that dotted the landscape around Squamish have left, but a lot of the knowledge that drove those industries remains intact.
We also have a growing number of citizens here who possess the knowledge to be successful in this new economy, but who are creating value in other communities.
If we can bring these two things together locally, we can begin to seed part of a diversified, next generation economy for Squamish.
We have most of the ingredients already; two universities, a youthful and educated population, and local government yearning for economic development.
What’s missing is a catalyst to bring it to life, a spark to light the fire, a leader in this space.
With that, I would like to pose a question to you, the reader: Who should drive a program like this?
The District of Squamish, the private sector, or should it be a combination of both?
I can be found on Twitter@natedolha, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org