Kelowna plans a $35-million centre for startups

The centre will include six floors of office and workspace for private sector technology companies, government-funded organizations and non-for-profits.

Premier Christy Clark was on hand Monday to announce the province’s $6-million investment in a proposed $35-million, for-profit complex for early-stage companies and entrepreneurs in the Okanagan

Spearheaded by the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group, a consortium of private sector investors, a 106,000-square-foot Okanagan Centre for Innovation dedicated to “supporting innovation, technology industry and entrepreneurial growth” in the region, is planned for the north side of downtown Kelowna. The $35-million development, which will be co-owned by the province, KSIG and the city, is slated for completion by early 2016.
“We don’t think that there’s anything like it Canada,” says Jeff Keen, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan, one of the organizations behind the project. “It’ll be pretty unique in that a whole startup ecosystem will be under one roof.”
The public contribution to the project—$6 million from the province and a nominal lease for the land, valued at $2 million—will fund low cost space for technology sector startups, and space for non-for-profits, respectively. The province and city will own a stake in the complex. The private sector investors, who will fund the bulk of the $35 million complex, wish to remain anonymous until financing is entirely secured, according to Keen.
Designed to offer market commercial space as well as public space and services to startup and non-profits, the complex is inspired by workplaces like Pixar and Apple, and has been in the works since early 2013, says Keen.
“This new centre will help entrepreneurs get their companies up and running, and launch Kelowna not only as a national tech leader but a globally recognized destination for tech investment and entrepreneurial development,” said premier Christy Clark, who attended the announcement in Kelowna Monday afternoon. The centre will fall within Clark’s riding of Kelowna-West.
The development is modeled, in part, on Communitech, a for-profit venture in Waterloo, Ontario, which, according to a 2012 report by Deloitte Consulting, has generated $14 for every $1 of public investment, generating 5,600 jobs.