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Business Catalyst Centre

Business Catalyst Centre image

In September 2022, the BWG Office of Economic Development (OED) began working with Accolade Innovations Inc. to investigate the need for, and feasibility of, developing a Business Catalyst Centre (BCC) to serve the needs of the local business community. The overarching goal in creating a BCC is to develop a collaborative ecosystem where industry, small business, entrepreneurs, start-ups, government, academia, and venture capital can come together to create community, spark innovation and stimulate economic growth.

Under the guidance of the OED, a five-member Steering Committee was created to oversee and guide this feasibility study. Members were chosen for their business experience, entrepreneurial history, economic development involvement, and knowledge of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of support and resources in central Ontario and across Ontario.
Over many months, they reviewed extensive research on best-practices for business acceleration, a variety of business model options for business hubs and the effectiveness of programming options that can be delivered by such hubs. Community engagement was essential to the process, with Accolade meeting with many individuals and groups to determine the needs of the small business community, hybrid workers and entrepreneurs.

Through this process, the Steering Committee identified gaps in services and resources for business start-ups, early-stage entrepreneurs and small business operators; a lack of local programming aimed at assisting companies to start, grow and scale; a lack of access to high-quality business mentors and to business funding; a lack of collaborative training and networking space as well as co-working or flexible smaller office space, meeting space and event space.

After an extensive review of the research, interviews, and visits to eight different catalyst centre facilities across Simcoe County and York Region, “The BWG Co-Working Model” was identified as the best option to address both the needs of entrepreneurs and the community. This would entail the development of a business-oriented co-working space that offers professional working, meeting and event space to local start-ups, hybrid workers and small businesses, operating under a membership model with users paying based on their use of space and amenities. Mentorship and support for entrepreneurs would be provided via a variety of programming offered by Georgian College’s Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre.

This concept was approved in principle by Council in mid-2023, with a full report and financial analysis approved in December 2023. Funding for the first phase of the project was approved during the 2024 Business Plan and Budget on January 9 and 10, 2024, with Council endorsing $200,000 in initial financing for the BCC.

The OED will continue its work with Accolade on next steps, which are already underway and include (with rough timelines):

  • Memoranda of Understanding with partner groups – February/March 2024
  • Grant funding applications to supplement Council’s approved funding – February to July 2024
  • Creating articles of incorporation – March/April 2024
  • Site Selection – April 2024
  • Selecting a BCC Board of Directors – June to September 2024
  • Hiring of Office Coordinator/Programmer – August 2024
  • Facility renovation – January to March 2025

The goal is to have all elements in place by 2025 for a BCC launch.