Residents who toured the new headquarter building of Innpower on April 11 learned that the west end of the building is unfinished and unoccupied. The intention was to provide now for future utility staff requirements that are 10 to 20 years in the future. As Innpower’s CEO put it in September, 2014, “The building footprint takes into consideration the growth demands for our respective communities.”
The original concept was to lease the vacant space (about 4,000 square feet on 2 floors) to private companies. The leasee would be expected to finish the interior space including drywall and electrical wiring at its own expense. At the time of the building’s public Open House, Innpower staff said that leases would generate revenue until the space was required for Innpower employees.
Meanwhile, back in March, Council was presented with a report describing a County initiative to partner with the Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre (GBBEC) “to increase accessibility to services/support to Simcoe County entrepreneurs by adding a mobile Small Business Consultant dedicated to providing in-market services …”. This was to be a two-year pilot project to provide a full-time small business consultant whose mandate would be “to deliver core business advisory services, business plan development, seminar/workshop delivery, [and] youth entrepreneur programs …”. (GBBEC is being renamed the Small Business Enterprise Centre)
As a participant in the program Innisfil’s role would be to provide “support (either financial or in-kind) for office/meeting space as well as internet/phone service and administrative resources such as access to a photocopier and fax, IT assistance, etc., required to support the provision of services in the community.” The County specifically requested:
- Dedicated office space 1-4 days per month that allows for confidential service between consultant and clients. This office space is not required to be within a municipal office; other options may include and are not limited to local community partners such as the local CFDC or Chambers of Commerce.
- Telephone service with an extension for outgoing calls. Internet service where appropriate.
- Designated kiosk space for signage and information (ie. 2ft x 3ft wall pamphlet holder or counter display)
“Town Staff recommend supporting the pilot program through “In Kind” contributions (office space, phone, internet etc. It is estimated that these in kind costs will not be in excess of $150 per month”. Council adopted this recommendation.
According to an Innisfil Examiner report (Town Building Business Centre at InnPower) published April 24, Council has now decided to create a “Business Centre” within the InnPower building even though this project had not been included in the 2015 budget. “Leasehold improvements and furniture acquisition” will tip the scales at $216,000 plus $54,000 in annual rental. The article states that operating costs for 2015 will be $40,585. The Community and Economic Development department has 5 permanent staff and “2.93” part-time staff. It’s not clear how much space the Centre will occupy or if it will also include ‘business incubator’ space. If the Centre is occupying 2,000 SF on the ground floor, the interior is costing $108/SF for finishing and $27/SF to occupy. Roughly half of that if we’re footing the bill for the space on two floors (the vacant upper floor space is about 2,250 SF).
Councillor Doug Laugheed rationalized it by saying, “It’s not that the town is losing other revenue from private sources, the town is actually paying the lease to InnPower, from which we receive a certain portion of revenue.” That’s an interesting accounting concept. Council is expected to get the required $216,000 from the Alternative Revenue Source reserve (funded by revenue from Georgian Downs).
Essentially, I’d say we’re creating a quarter million dollar space to house 5 full-time Economic Development staff and a part-time mobile Small Business Consultant who will be sitting at their desks waiting for your phone call to book a private consultation or attend a seminar or workshop.
Meanwhile, the Town has also partnered with Nottawasaga Futures to conduct a business owners survey under the Business Retention and Expansion Program. The questionnaire was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. This is described as a “business support program” to “identify specific barriers to growth and to highlight opportunities for expansion”. Responses will be analyzed to identify urgent ‘red flag’ issues as well as medium and long-term issues affecting business development. Nottawasaga Futures will be approaching 120 businesses to participate, and other businesses are invited to contact Nottawasaga Futures directly at 705-436-3806 to offer their insights.
Taking care of business … the Innisfil way.
Previously: Our Curious Municipal Campus