By IAN ROSS
Being prepared with readily available space for technology-based companies is the business case behind renovations at Sudbury’s expanded downtown Technology Centre.
It is the same philosophy behind assembling a fully-serviced land package for any conventional sort of industrial park, says Doug Nadorozny, the city’s general manager of economic development and planning.
“We looked at it as the newest form of an industrial park for technology-based businesses,” Nadorozny says.
It is part of Sudbury’s plan to develop an information technology cluster to lure potential new businesses north and provide space for local startups with a fully-wired turnkey operation.
“We brought the infrastructure in and made the floor wired and made sure we could put someone in there that we turn on a dime if the opportunity came up, and then go out and market it as technology-ready space,” says Nadorozny,
Soon after renovations began last February for the Technology Centre, its first tenant, a Toronto animation and television production company, was secured.
March Entertainment, creators of an upcoming animated CBC series called Chilly Beach, expect to create as many as 25 animation and technical jobs with salaries ranging from $35,000 to $45,000 a year. The ribbon-cutting ceremony is slated to take place mid May.
The new anchor tenant will occupy more than 10,000 square feet in the downtown Rainbow Outlet Centre, formerly known as the City Centre.
March Entertainment inked a five-year lease to occupy 4,000 square feet of the 10,000-square-foot centre with the possibility existing of adding a second and third tenant by year’s end.
“We’re working on another tenant for that floor that is a local startup and another tenant from out of town,” says Nadorozny. “We’d like to have the three in place by the end of the year.”
The local firm is almost a done deal, he says, while city officials are still awaiting a final decision from the out-of-town firm, which is considering locating a division to Sudbury.
“There’s a lot of benefit to putting like-minded companies together in the technology sector,” Nadorozny says. “They’ll feed on each other and start to be catalysts in growing together. By dedicating space with four or five companies operating, hopefully some synergies will result.”
The initiative is part of a plan spearheaded years ago by Sudbury Hydro, the parent company of Greater Sudbury Telecommunications, and Mayor Jim Gordon to develop opportunities through a high-speed telecommunications highway that would provide a benefit to the entire city.
The renovations are the second phase of a partnership involving the city, Greater Sudbury Telecommunications and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. The provincial agency provided $500,000 for winter renovations to the third floor of the downtown Rainbow Outlet Centre, formerly known as City Centre tower.
“Our plan is fill the third floor and then use that success to build another package to expand into other areas of the building,” says Nadorozny.
In acting as the city’s technology consultants, the Greater Sudbury Telecommunications Inc., with its advanced fibre optic network will provide the high-speed Internet and data communications services to prospective technology companies in the centre.
“There’s a beautiful match here in terms of the type of business Chilly Beach offers with their computerized graphic arts that they can tap right into some of the school programs here,” says John Jezza, executive vice-president with Greater Sudbury Telecommunications.
By outfitting the centre to handle any client’s communication requirements, the city has put together
an attractive and competitive package combining high-speed connectivity and cost-effective solutions with a local pool of highly skilled talent, says Jezza, all of which makes Sudbury a “choice strategic location.”
The arrival of TeleTech in 1999 to the downtown office space marked the strategy’s first phase and generated the momentum to begin marketing Sudbury as technology cluster.
“TeleTech provided a foundation that a company of that size could operate successfully in Sudbury,” says Helen Mulc, manager of business development at the city’s Regional Business Centre.
“Now that we have a company with operations all over North America, why couldn’t there be other communications and information technology companies that could see Sudbury as an ideal spot?”
“Why wouldn’t you consider operating in a technology centre that meets or surpasses all of your technological requirements?” asks Mulc.
City development officials are now tapping into their professional networks of former Sudburians scattered across North America to put the word out about Sudbury’s new fully-wired technology centre.
“Successful technology firms want to be around other successful firms,” says Mulc. “The buzz has gone as far as Silicon Valley.”
TeleTech’s outbound call centre at the downtown centre employs 1,100 people servicing clients in the financial, transportation, communications, government, health care and travel sectors.