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Cornwall Innovation Centre pitches for SDG funding

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By Shawna O'Neill
Cornwall Innovation Centre pitches for SDG funding
Martha Woods of the EOTB and Lesley Thompson of the CFDC during funding deliberations (Shawna O`Neill/Seaway News photo).

UNITED COUNTIES, Ontario – United Counties Councillors were left wanting more following a presentation made by supporting partners of the Cornwall Innovation Centre (CIC) on Monday, June 17.

Lesley Thompson of Cornwall & The Counties Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC), and Martha Woods of the Eastern Ontario Training Board (EOTB), revisited SDG Council with a more in-depth presentation that outlined the company’s initiatives and satellite outreach programs after an initial request from council for more information back in April of this year.

“We really want to hammer home why this is so important,” said Thompson about the CIC and its working parts, like the Ontario Emerging Jobs Institute (OEJI). “Every single day, Martha and I work with local business owners and they say time and time again ‘I have everything I need to grow, if only I could find (the right people)…this is a mix of skilled and unskilled labour.'”

“We can not grow. We need to find ways to curve the out-migration of our youth, to address the aging population and our inability to attract outsiders to the community…this is one of the only ways we truly believe we will grow,” said Thompson in regards to Cornwall’s stagnant population numbers and the CIC’s efforts to attract younger adults to the region.

Although council expressed interest in the various initiatives of the CIC, including maker spaces and digital studios, peer to peer networking platforms and angel financial networks, council ultimately requested that CIC supporting partners return in the future with more specific data on initiatives before they will contribute additional funding to the Centre.

“Without the data, no offence, there’s not a lot of meat there, but there’s a lot of philosophical ideas that sound great. But, just speaking for North Dundas, we don’t know what the tangible reality of what this will be, is…what does this mean for us?” asked Deputy Mayor of North Dundas Allan Armstrong.

Armstrong said that Cornwall is not exactly a short drive from his municipality and he wanted to know in a less passive manner what the satellite centres would house in his municipality.

Thompson said that the CIC has submitted about $8 million in continued funding applications and is still waiting to see how much FedDev Ontario will support.

“Part of our challenge is how quickly we are able to scale this and grow and which elements of this network you see we will be able to execute on first. It depends on which funding contributions come through first,” said Thompson.

CIC Executive Director Eric Bergeron felt the presentation went relatively well and understands council’s desire for more clarification. Bergeron said that while the Centre waits on the requested funding outcomes, different funding avenues are still on the table, such as requesting the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities fund OEJI again, or developing more specific boots camps, weekend programming or fee per service initiatives.

“We are planning for both (funding) outcomes. Getting that funding is a game changer for this region…if OEJI is built to what it’s meant to be,” said Bergeron, who reinforced that the Centre is dedicated to helping local businesses and start-ups.

SDG Council provided the CIC with $50k this year, only 10 per cent of requested funding over a 10-year period. Thompson said that a more insightful business plan would be created by June 24.

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Jenni MacDonald, Dominion Lending, Cornwall, Ontario