Cornwall Innovation Centre becomes ‘CREATE,’ offers new services for entrepreneurs at Cotton Mills ‘business hub’

CREATE Executive Director Eric Bergeron (second from right) poses with representatives of the other entities involved in the new CREATE space at the Cornwall Cotton Mills. From left: CREATE Board member Mark Owen, Cornwall and the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation Executive Director Lesley Thompson, RBC Vice President Commercial Banking Johanne Delves and (at right) Eastern Ontario Training Board Executive Director Martha Woods. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

CORNWALL — Entrepreneurs in the United Counties of SDG and Cornwall will soon have access to a new collaboration space and business services hub.  A planned combination of existing agencies and new services under one roof, the initiative was launched Friday as CREATE — Cornwall & Region Entrepreneurs Artists & Technologists’ Exchange — previously known as the Cornwall Innovation Centre.

While the name may have changed, officials say the mission remains the same — to help business owners grow their business.

“We have explored the type and level of support services available to entrepreneurs in other communities, and we have picked the best elements to create a cohesive supportive environment where ideas can flourish,” says Eric Bergeron, Executive Director of CREATE.

See Bergeron’s full presentation, below.

CREATE will be located in the Cornwall Cotton Mill District in 7,500 square feet of renovated space overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Renovations will be complete by March 2020, at which time the entity will move out of a neighbouring suite and into the new space as manager and anchor tenant.

The precursor Cornwall Innovation Centre was launched in April 2017, offering tech oriented entrepreneurs an opportunity to turn their ideas into business success. Today, the Centre works with 15 different businesses, providing advice and connecting them with mentors and investors; Evoweigh of Chesterville — owned by Matt and Hayley Cooke — was among the firms mentioned during Bergon’s remarks at the launch party inside Esca Gourmet Pizza + Bar on Pitt Street.

The new vision of CREATE seeks to make the Centre sustainable by offering a number of services not only helping entrepreneurs but also generating revenue to fund other programs. This includes the development of a co-working space for business owners in need of a desk or office. RBC has stepped in to support this vision, and the co-working space will be branded as the RBC Connect Centre. In a related development, Bergeron told NVN that he’s working Birket Foster in Chesterville to establish a satellite CREATE co-working location at the MB Foster Associates building at 2808 County Rd. 7. He’s also looking to do the same at Armour Development’s North Dundas Business Centre on Main Street in Winchester, he says.

“Co-working space is growing in popularity as it offers an affordable solution to space requirements but has the added benefit of bringing entrepreneurs together in one place where they can share ideas and build off each other’s energy,” says Bergeron.

“It’s not costing us anything,” he says of the upcoming renovations, noting the building owner is carrying the cost as landlord. “They’re paying for everything. They’re fitting it up, and we are the space managers, and we get a percentage of revenue to manage the space,” the executive director explains. CREATE will also pay rent to occupy its portion, as will two other local organizations similarly relocating into the shared Cotton Mills space  — the Cornwall & Counties Community Futures Development Corporation and the Eastern Ontario Training Board. “We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of commitment,” Bergeron says of the building’s owners at a company named WBG, previously based in China but since relocated to Canada.

While co-working prices have yet to be established, Bergeron suggests individual access membership to the site should be “around” $100 per month, with reserved spaces going for “closer to $200” monthly. “And the lockable offices will be under $400. We’re still working it out, but that’s our range.”

Reflecting on the developments at the former industrial property, symbol of Cornwall’s defunct textiles sector, Bergeron is enthused to see the progress. “Twenty years ago, when I started a company, I wanted that space,” he concedes. “I’m very happy I get to work in there now. I think everybody is. Every day I walk by it, and look into the window.”

CREATE will also include a makerspace, with over $35,000 in technology that entrepreneurs can use, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, specialized software, photography and audio equipment.

While lacking formal recognition as a provincial “regional innovation centre (RIC),” CREATE does engage closely with the Kingston entity — Launch Lab — accorded that official status here. For funding, CREATE relies on contributions from the City of Cornwall, the Counties, corporate sponsors, as well as other revenue-raising measures.

Bergeron joined the organization as executive director last winter. Although also serving as city councillor, Bergeron emphasizes that he recuses himself from all council discussions pertaining to CREATE.

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