Powell River Creative Economy and Innovation Initiative expands

Innovation hub and co-working space to open soon

Powell River’s Creative Economy and Innovation Initiative is moving into its second phase and qathet Regional District committee of the whole members were recently given an overview of the progress.

At the committee’s meeting on Thursday, September 5, Claudia Medina, one of the project’s coordinators, outlined the initiative on how to grow the creative economy. Medina said the focus has been on entrepreneurial culture in a creative sense, not particularly in an artistic sense, but in creative approaches to economic diversification. She said that can include the knowledge-based economy, plus all kinds of different approaches to entrepreneurship.

An analysis has been undertaken to let organizers know they were on track and that there was a sense of having taken the temperature of the community and the changes that have happened during the past few years, said Medina.

“We did an analysis that was basically looking at the past work that has been done,” she added. “There’s a lot of great work that has been done over the past few years.”

Medina said in 2012 there was a task force on economic diversification that outlined a lot of the things creative economy organizers have been studying. There have been specific reports around the arts and culture file, social planning and connections around the broader scope of economic development in the community, knowing there is a need, similar to most communities, to diversify, she added.

“We wanted to have conversations and go through all of the previous work, pulling up trends and understanding how it’s all fitting together with where we are at now,” said Medina. “There were also conversations around it being time to develop a large-scale tech hub or something like that to help attract newcomers.

“What we did is we took a lot of that information and with the help of Island Coastal Economic Trust, we got a grant, and partners, including yourselves, contributed, so we could do that whole analysis over the year, which involved reviews, research and outreach with stakeholders and community members at large.”

Medina said a number of open houses were conducted and there was a number of stakeholder engagement meetings, looking at the different sectors related to the creative economy. There were also discussions with people who are interested in working remotely.

“As a result, we found there was a lot of interest in actually creating a space, a hub, if you will,” said Medina. “It kind of lends itself to the idea of an innovation hub but was also addressing the needs of remote workers or people who were interested in having a space to connect with other entrepreneurs.”

The organizers, after a year of this work, created a roadmap, which identifies and prioritizes some of the items that came up, said Medina. They were seeing trends with people who were needing more supports with budgeting, marketing, accounting and all of the aspects around a lot of the cultural economic drivers that have a connection to the basic idea of a knowledge-based or creative economy, she added.

“It was exciting to see that we already had an established creative economic ecosystem here and that we had certain things that could be strengthened,” said Medina. “We could see there was more need.”

The roadmap, at the end of phase one, had several features. One is establishing the entrepreneurial ecosystem development program, which would be a container to provide targeted programming that reflected the gaps and the needs and desires expressed by community members, said Medina. It is also to engage people about what the creative economy means. Medina said it can be a little abstract and has many aspects to it.

A good way to start is to create a smaller space, rather than a larger innovation hub, to tap into and start building from there, said Medina.

The culture of the users is also necessary for defining the space, she said. Organizers are looking at creating a space that is welcoming, beautiful, and something unique that would entice membership, according to Medina.

“The new space will be a combination of innovation hub and coworking space,” she said. “It will be a space where people can come and work, but it’s also a space where people will formally and informally learn. Programming will be provided as part of the ecosystem development program.”

Funding for the creative economy and innovation initiative has been received from a number of sources. With support from City of Powell River, the initiative has secured space above Powell River Public Library, close to the arts centre, to create that hub. The initiative applied to Powell River Community Forest to do the leasehold improvements in the space.

Plans are to open the doors in mid-October. A manager for the hub was scheduled to be hired. There will also be a social media person working on content. Programming will occur soon after opening the doors.

“We already have a number of folks who have expressed interest in becoming members,” said Medina. “The space is not huge but it can provide for about 30 to 40 membership and working space for about 15.”

City of Powell River director of economic development and communications Scott Randolph said there was a slight funding shortfall of about $5,000. Organizers were hoping the regional district would provide funding to help with that shortfall in the second phase.

Committee of the whole carried motions recommending the regional board support an aggregate $5,000 grant request and approve a grant to Powell River Creative Economy and Innovation Initiative toward costs associated with the development of operations and programming for the entrepreneurial ecosystem development program.

For more information, go to prinnovationhub.com.

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