MP Terry Sheehan was at Insightworks Inc., located at the Tech in Sault Ste. Marie, on Wednesday morning to make two $490,000 funding announcements on behalf of the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor).
The funding will support two Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) projects - $490,000 will go towards deliver the Broadband E-business and Marketing program (BEAM), and another $490,000 will enable the SSMIC to deliver the Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP).
BEAM, delivered recently as a pilot project, will help entrepreneurs incorporate e-business applications into their operations such as search engine optimizations, social media integration, and customer relationships. " Pilot project delivered some impressive results including the completion of 70 projects, the creation of 12 new businesses along with 15 full time jobs, and the expansion or modernization of 34 area businesses," said Sheehan.
Mark Lewis, CEO and founder of Insightworks, has been a beneficiary of these pilot projects. He started in 2011 in the SSMIC incubator with two employees.
Insightworks has grown their team from two people to ten people, all of whom attended either Algoma University or Sault College in some capacity. "Without the Innovation Centre, I can tell you with absolute certainty, we wouldn't be here today," said Lewis. "We want to recognize how grateful we are for programs like BEAM and the IAP program. They've been instrumental in helping us grow from where we started to where we're at today."
the Insightworks Inc. team consists of I.T. (development/software), graphic artists, and account managers and is a training and development company that provides online learning solutions. Those solutions present exclusive 3D technology that present information in bite-sized modules making it easier for employees to understand and retain information.
"Those first 2 or 3 years for any small business starting up in the Sault, they're challenging and programs like this allow a company, like ours, to do things that you wouldn't otherwise be able to do," he said.
Lewis gave an example of how IAP funding allows them to go to a trade show which in turn gets sales. "You get sales you grow," he said. "It sounds simple but without IAP funding we wouldn't have gone to that trade show. Those programs are really critical during those early start up years."
Sheehan said the government recognizes the challenges Northern Ontario faces as efforts are made to diversify the economy. "One of the things we need to do is continue to innovate, grow, and prosper," he said. "One of the ways we do this here federally is through FedNor. By supporting the SSMIC the Government of Canada is helping to ensure local entrepreneurs have access to programs and services they need to thrive and succeed."
Mayor Christian Provenzano was pleased with the partnerships with the feds, city and SSMIC.
"Coming here today, and seeing this activity, is one of the most heartening moments of my time as mayor of Sault Ste. Marie because this is exactly what we have to be doing," he said. "I think this is a great example of where our community is at, but more importantly it's where our community can grow."
The business development and Information and Communications Technology SSMIC have worked with just over 215 small to medium sized business from across Algoma.
Since 2012 the SSMIC distributed just over $770,000 in IAP and BEAM funding to support nearly 180 clients across the Algoma region.