The timing is fantastic – Agritech is growing

“The timing is fantastic – everything is coming together for us”!

When Chris Bush talks about agricultural technology his excitement and enthusiasm is both obvious and infectious. Agritech is a growing and important business, and Chris is helping to bring it to Mission.

We are standing in the parking lot outside the city owned Buy Low building in Mission’s downtown. Still mostly vacant, it gives no hint of the behind-the-scenes activity that will soon bring it to life as a world class technical centre for emerging agricultural tech companies. But in fact there is a lot going on. The economic and social benefits to Mission are just around the corner.As president of Catalyst Agri-Innovations Society, and a director of the non-profit SRCTec (Sumas Regional Consortium for Technology), Chris is here for a meeting to bring all the parties up to date on the progress to turn the dream into reality. And that reality is very close.

Agritech

Agritech

Consider the following:

  • The facility will require an anchor tenant to help defray leasing costs and provide mentoring. That anchor tenant has signed a memorandum of understanding, and is scheduled to occupy the building no later than January 2015.
  • Mission’s TCE (Technical Centre of Excellence) will provide accommodation and mentoring for emerging and incubator high tech businesses. Twelve companies have already expressed interest.
  • A proposal to obtain major operating funding for the Centre has been submitted to BCIC (British Columbia Innovation Council). The proposal has been warmly received and final approval is expected by mid to late August.
  • Other funding proposals have been submitted to WD (Western Economic Diversification) to expand the programs offered by the Centre.
  • Work is underway to create a consortium of credit unions to support the project and participate in business financing. In fact one credit union is already committed. Plans are also underway to create a venture fund that will give access to capital locally.
  • Letters of support have been received from Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Maple Ridge. Maple Ridge participation is through Invest North Fraser. “There are no losing communities here”, notes Mission Economic Development Officer Stacey Crawford. “Mission’s TCE will be only one piece of the puzzle designed to bring high tech jobs to the Fraser Valley. This is a win-win for everybody”.
  • Mission’s Riverside College is on board with the Centre
  • The portion of the building required by SRCTec for the initial TCE operation will be occupied soon after the funding is approved, probably by late September or early October. A plan is in place to renovate the building to accommodate its new uses, and renovation work will commence very shortly. The federal agency Farm Credit Canada has been approached to contribute to the facility upgrade.
  • ACETech, the Vancouver based training organization for CEOs of technology, life sciences, and innovative companies, has committed to hold an evening meeting in Mission on September 18. It is expected that many of the brightest and best tech CEO’s from Coquitlam east will attend this ground breaking event.

“The overall theme is “Our New Mission”, says SRCTec chair Ray Szabada. “This city is poised to become the emerging business high tech capital of British Columbia. The interest is huge”.

Szabada emphasizes that the SRCTec mandate is Fraser Valley wide, and not restricted to Mission. In fact he envisages future TCE facilities located in other cities.   “It’s still a 45 minute drive from Chilliwack to Mission”, he points out. “This is too far to meet the needs of incubator businesses located there”. At the same time, he is effusive in his praise for Mission and its elected leaders. “Mayor Adlem and his Council really get it’, he says. “They have stepped to the plate in a big way, and the local economy will benefit. It’s gratifying to work with innovative leadership”.

SRCTec envisages three areas of business, all designed to promote the establishment of successful high tech businesses with their accompanying highly paid jobs.

  1. Innovation and incubation . This component comprises Stage 1 of the Mission TCE.
  2. Corporate Services. This for profit component will allow the TCE to be financially self sustaining, and will be implemented as Stage 2.
  3. Special Programs and Events (including an educational component). The TCE will partner with post secondary institutions to offer continuing education, research and special programs. This will be Stage 3 and will round out the Centre.

Naturally it’s not happening quickly enough for Ray Szabada. “This has been a long term proposition”, he says. “We’ve been working to achieve this goal for more than 5 years now. But we’re more than 90% of the way there now. One way or another, Mission will get a technical centre and a substantial number of tech jobs located in this building. It’s that close”!

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