In early May, I travelled with Mayor Iveson and a delegation of private and public sector leaders to San Francisco for a trade mission. Our aim was to generate interest in Edmonton as a burgeoning market for investment in innovation, but what struck me was the culture of entrepreneurship and the established avenues for investment and accelerated growth that they take as a given in Silicon Valley. They don’t wait around to read the tea leaves, and it is this pace and seeming inevitability that makes San Francisco such an attractive place for entrepreneurs to build their businesses.
It should come as no surprise that one of the most impactful things we can do to spur sustainable growth as a City is to create the conditions for local entrepreneurs to start companies here in Edmonton. Mayor Iveson spoke at length on this subject in his State Of The City address by expressing that “when an entrepreneur has an idea and they want to go from idea to start-up, and then scale-up and beyond, we need to be right alongside them at every stage of their journey.” As we continue to diversify our local economy and limit our reliance on the booms and busts of oil prices, it is critical that we develop the infrastructure that will give entrepreneurs the support they need to get their companies off the ground. Creating a robust start-up culture is only one piece of the puzzle, however; moving forward we must also focus on building an environment for companies not just to grow, but to stay. As a growing, internationally viable city, we need to create a path for businesses to mature without a self-imposed ceiling. We need to know when to step in and offer support, and when to stand back and let talent flourish. We need local entrepreneurs to see their home as a place where they can build out their vision from concept to reality.
Members of Council had an opportunity to tour the NAIT Productivity and Innovation Centre, set to open in the fall of 2018, and I can say with confidence that this space has the potential to be a centrepiece of our economic development strategy for years to come. I am also very excited to be involved in a prospective new incubator project with several private sector leaders that will help to take Edmonton entrepreneurs through the step of building a globally viable company; I hope to have a concrete update on this soon. Adding this to the continued efforts of our illustrious post-secondary institutions and numerous private and public sector agencies, I feel that our capacity in this area is growing by the day. For this pattern to continue, however, it must be an ongoing area of focus for my office and for leaders across the city.