Digital Nation

Columbia Lake Technology Center: Exemplar Blueprint for a ‘Digital Enterprise Center’

The Columbia Lake Technology Center demonstrates how Canada's rural economy can modernize for the Internet age.

In the previous blog we describe the theory of ‘Digital Enterprise Centers’, co-working office communities at the heart of the Digital Economy.

Located in the stunning village Canal Flats BC, the Columbia Lake Technology Center offers an exemplar blueprint of this theory in action.

It really is testimony to the process of adapting to the transition from Canada’s traditional resource dominated industry to one of the new world of Internet technologies.

As they describe:

“At the Columbia Lake Technology Center (CLTC) we see an incredible opportunity to support small communities in preparing for a successful future as economic drivers shift.  For us, Future Proofing has two pillars.  Firstly, by developing, encouraging and supporting sustainable, value-added businesses, we can help to drive an economy that provides meaningful work for many different skill-sets and talents.  Secondly, by creating and collaborating on educational opportunities, we can support a shift in skills and mindsets to prepare our community and region to thrive for generations to come.”

The Star writes how the center was created by converting an old saw mill, when the remote town of 800 people in southeastern B.C. began evolving from a forestry-dependent economy. It’s housed inside the skeleton of a century-old mill — once the town’s main employer, but closed at the expense of 75 jobs and leaving the community at risk of becoming one more of rural Canada’s ghost towns.

The CBC describes how the idea was conceptualized by Brian Fehr and Brian Fry, entrepreneurs from the forestry and data center industries respectively, developing a partnership that addressed this painful event for the region by combining their extensive expertise of building successful businesses to create a world class technology center.

Fry had a powerful vision for how state of the art IT facilities could be ideally situated in a place that exploits the already present requirements like power, creating a resource usually only possible in big cities in Vancouver, but is located in an idyllic rural setting.

Now the buildings that once housed log sorters and giant saws are now home to high-tech electrical equipment and cranes for lifting shipping containers filled with hundreds of data servers, providing a home to initiatives such as Virtual Reality learning for school children.

On the BC government site they explain the background of how the project came about and importantly the collaboration with different levels of government to realize a strategy that benefited multiple local economic development needs.

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