CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall Councillor Eric Bergeron, who since 2019 has served as the Executive Director of the Cornwall and Region Entrepreneurs Artists and Technologists Exchange (CREATE), formerly the Cornwall Innovation Centre, has parted ways with the organization.
Lelsey Thompson, Executive Director of the Cornwall and Counties Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC), a CREATE partner organization, stated to Seaway News that this separation was mutual.
“Many options were considered and ultimately, it was an agreed upon decision between Eric and the Board, that this was the most responsible financial response for the organization at this time,” said Thompson. “Eric continues to be involved and continues to be, like the Board, committed to the ongoing success of the organization and to supporting our entrepreneur community.”
Like many organizations, especially non-profits, CREATE has seen many of its revenue streams and plans for the future put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A large part of CREATE’s funding model depended on fees from their co-working space, something the Board was unwilling to go forward with due to the risks of COVID-19.
CREATE’s Board of Directors has frozen hiring for the time being, so there will not be a replacement for Bergeron brought on board for the time being.
According to Thompson, the pandemic has also put a freeze on money that CREATE receives from the City of Cornwall.
Cornwall agreed in 2017 to provide $50,000 a year for 10 years starting in 2018 to the then Cornwall Innovation Centre.
Cornwall Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Maureen Adams confirmed that this year’s installment has yet to be paid out.
“The City made a payment in 2018 and 2019. The payment hasn’t been advanced for 2020 and will not likely be provided at this time,” Adams said in an email to Seaway News.
Thompson explained that in order to receive their funding from the city, CREATE must present audited financial records, which she explained they have been unable to do because their accounting firm is currently dealing with a backlog of work because of the pandemic.
“Our auditors are backed up, again because of COVID, but are diligently working away at finalizing and we hope to receive drafts soon. Once these are finalized the Board will go before council to present the state of the union, the accomplishments over the past year, as well as the plan forward,” Thompson explained.
Despite these setbacks, Thompson assured that CREATE and their team were dedicated to build a positive and enriching environment for entrepreneurs in Cornwall.
“Though COVID-19 has impacted our start-up not for profit quite significantly, the volunteers around the table are just as committed as ever to helping to build a fertile entrepreneurial ecosystem which attracts and retains people and businesses in our region,” Thompson said. “All original partnerships remain and advisory and referral services continue.”
Seaway News reached out to Councillor Eric Bergeron for a comment, but he has not replied as of time of publication.