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Minister Chagger visits PIC

“Staying connected with organizations across the region through regular and informative events.”

Date: August 22, 2016

Media Contact: Ana Blouin, Project Development Manager, [email protected] or (705) 269-1354


TIMMINS, ON: On August 10th, Ana Blouin, Project Development Manager of the Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC), along with NEOnet, and regional business owners gathered in Northern College’s Entrepreneur Centre to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship in Northern Ontario with the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism.

“We have been travelling across the country to listen to, and work with, Canadians,” explains the Minister. “We are here to ensure that Northern Ontario is booming.”

The short visit to Timmins included a roundtable discussion with both small and larger business owners throughout the region and ended with a tour of the college that focused on NEOnet, PIC and the creative outlet.

As the roundtable discussion progressed, some businesses agreed that there were a lot of growth opportunities available in Northern Ontario, there were still many challenges to overcome first.

During the discussion, some questions were asked regarding the stability of funding pools available to Northern Ontario businesses and how much was allocated to the North. The Minister spoke on this note addressing the new collaborative approach between the Regional Development Agencies who will be coming together under one division and sharing their best practices.

Another concern raised was the lack of resources available to mature entrepreneurs and mature businesses. “We have a cluster of opportunities to help business through the Business Enterprise Centre, Timmins Economic Development Corporation and the Venture Centre, but the focuses of the programs are on start-ups and encouraging youth entrepreneurship,” said Fred Gibbons, Chair of Timmins Economic Development Corporation and President of Northern College. “What is there for mature businesses looking to expand or those who are over 29?”

A business owner agreed when he explained that his business was, “expanding beyond the experience of anyone in Timmins,” while another present business explained the difficulty they had competing against larger companies in urban areas when their technology was out of date. The table agreed that technology should be widely available.

It is safe to say most concerns circled around lack of funding and resources, but some other issues companies were facing were dealing with international legalities when it came to exporting and Intellectual Property (IP) protection. Addressing this concern, Shereen Benzvy Miller, Assistance Deputy Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada explained the new engagement approach the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has started. “The IP Office is changing their techniques. They are actively pursuing inventors to make sure their properties are protected.”

An underlying concern throughout the various topics was with education, particularly with entrepreneurs. Gibbons argued that college is stigmatized with a lesser value than a university education.

The Minister recalled her experience with this common opinion. “In Waterloo region, where I am from, we had the same problem until we stopped referring to them individually: Canada has world class post-secondary options.”

As the discussion end neared, all concerns were noted and encouraged to continue. “This is all about finding solutions,” the Deputy Minister explained. “We are here to listen. This is the only way we can try to reach everyone. Many new programs are the results of discussions like the one today. The BuildInCanada program is just one example.”

From the Entrepreneurship Centre, the crowd got smaller as the Northern College president lead both Minister and Deputy Minister to a separate meeting with the representatives of NEOnet, PIC, FedNor and the creative outlet where the topic of innovation in the North was a focus.

“The conversation does not end today,” the Minister notes at the end of the day. “We all are facing similar challenges. We have a lot more in common than we have differences.”

PIC is part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), and is supported by FedNor, NOHFC, Timmins Economic Development Corporation, NEOnet, and other partners. For more information on the Productivity & Innovation Centre (PIC) and its initiatives please contact Ana Blouin, [email protected] or 705-269-1354.

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