Mayor Andy Wells will take any chance to show off St. John’s high-tech sector.
That’s why he jumped at the opportunity to host the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance’s (CATA) first in a series of 10 Tech Action town halls in St. John’s, Nfld. The town halls will be televised and are designed to raise the profile of advanced technology in Canada.
“The high tech industry is one of the major growth sectors in this economy worldwide,” Wells said. ” Any community that is going to be successful in creating employment opportunities for its citizens has to deal with that reality.”
Wells, who has been mayor of St. John’s for four years, said high-tech wasn’t much of a factor for him when he joined council 24 years ago. However, with the kind of high-tech economic growth other cities have shown, he won’t turn down any chance to get involved.
“It offers industries a chance to interact meet major companies and individuals across Canada – this is a tremendous opportunity for networking,” he said about the first town hall, to be held on Sept. 26. “I think we have a very good high-tech centre here, centred around marine communications, the university, oil and gas operations and a number of high-tech, private sector enterprises that are competing internationally. What we have to do as a community is try and grow these industries.”
Barry Gander, director of public policy for CATA, said the town halls would offer a snapshot of a city’s progress with high-tech, and also offer suggestions on how the area could accelerate development.
“It’s a template for communities on how to judges themselves against the world’s best in the creation of communities that can thrive with advanced technology,” Gander said. “In the first few minutes of the meeting, we will put a slide up that shows people where they fit against the best in the world.”
Following that slide, based on the results of an Ipsos-Reid survey conducted in each city, a moderator will chair the meeting and help community members examine points to help them move towards a high-tech city.
“The end result is a blueprint of what the city should be doing to encourage technological growth,” he said. “What we are trying to do is mobilize these communities to take advantage of advanced technology and the opportunities it presents in business and education.”
CATA will hold at least 10 more meetings of this kind in high-tech centres across the country, and then will roll the program up in June in Ottawa when CATA brings all 10 mayors to Parliament Hill to discuss their progress.
“Every city can improve what they have in advanced technology,” Gander said. “No city is Silicon Valley yet, and we are not trying to turn cities into Silicon Valley. But each city can have an advanced technology focus on something that they do better than anyone else in the world.”
Wells hopes this town hall will give St. John’s businesses a better grasp on how they can best compete with their major Atlantic competitor – Halifax – and offer the city a chance to showcase its high-tech industries.
“No one knows where this is going or where it is going to end, we just know it is a fact of life,” Wells said. “It is, in a sense, a second or third industrial revolution.”