Grand Opening: NEOnet host to Productivity and Innovation Centre

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Grand Opening: NEOnet host to Productivity and Innovation Centre

Big boost for entrepreneurs

By Ron Grech, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 8:53:43 EDT PM
Story first published at TimminsPress.com, available here.

Federal, provincial and municipal government officials joined in celebrating the official opening Wednesday of the new Productivity and Innovation Centre based at Northern College. The centre will provide assistance to small- to medium-sized enterprises in the region. Participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony were, from left: Kim Lefebvre, with FedNor; Susan McLean, with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment; Ana Blouin, PIC project co-ordinator; Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren; Denis Bérubé, chairman of NEOnet; Bruce Strapp, executive director of Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation; and Fred Gibbons, chairman of the Timmins Economic Development Corporation.

TIMMINS – Various federal reports have pointed to the Timmins region as a “hotbed” for new business start-ups and “entrepreneurial activity,” says Timmins Economic Development Corporation chairman Fred Gibbons.

While there is potential to grow, many of those entrepreneurs need direction or assistance to enhance their ability to compete globally.

Speaking at the official opening of the Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC) on Wednesday, Gibbons said the goal of this new centre will be to “work with our professional service companies, our manufacturers, anybody who wishes to grow their business to the next level so we can compete on the global stage effectively.”

The PIC, based at the Northern College campus in South Porcupine, will focus on providing assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses in the region by examining their operations and work towards achieving efficiencies.

The establishment of a “centre of excellence” is a long time coming.

“About 2009 or 2010, the provincial government was having Northern Ontario work on a growth plan for Northern development,” Gibbons explained. “What was being encouraged at that time was for each of the regional centres to be looking to establish a centre of excellence.”

The need for a “centre of excellence” for the community was reinforced during the Timmins 2020 public consultations to develop a strategic plan.

The TEDC was ultimately tasked to lead the project and bring the concept to reality. NEOnet will become the permanent host for the centre and is responsible for implementing the vision of the regional partners

[NEOnet edit].

Ana Blouin, the centre’s project co-ordinator, explained, “We’ve identified 60 companies in the region, and I say region because this is not just Timmins. This is a regional initiative that covers from Hearst all the way down to Temiskaming Shores.

“Those companies have been identified through the EDCs (economic development corporations), through working with the chambers of commerce of the different regions … They have all been really good at helping us to identify the small- to medium-sized enterprises that will qualify and would benefit from our services.”

Blouin said the PIC has a “bank of consultants” it can tap into and make available to the client to conduct business productivity assessments in order to achieve operational efficiencies [NEOnet edit].

“The consultant will actually be on site with them and assess their operations. We will identify those inefficiencies and then we will actually work with them to put some strategies in place so they can become more innovative and productive.”

Blouin explained this initiative is a three-year pilot project.

“We are hoping that we will be fully self-sustaining by 2016. Right now we’re a project of TEDC and NEOnet. However, in 2016, we’re hoping to just be the Productivity and Innovation Centre.”

In addition to consultation services, PIC will provide financial incentives at various stages to help identify and address operational issues.

The centre also offers to provide better access to provincial and federal innovation programming through the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the National Resource Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program and other sources to assist with all stages of business development from research and development to commercialization.

The new PIC office is located in the B Wing at Northern College’s Timmins campus.

Hours of operation are weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, call 705-269-1354.

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