City council unanimously approved Monday the creation of a separate innovation entity to support entrepreneurs and Edmonton’s tech and knowledge economies.
The decision comes after about two years of discussion and engagement about how Edmonton attracts business and streamlining that model to reduce duplication. The creation of the new arms-length entity means reallocating roles currently under the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation.
“Council is confident that these changes will result in better outcomes for business and for investment and for innovation in our city,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
The city will recruit a board and a CEO that will deliver “the support entrepreneurs are looking for,” Iveson said.
EEDC would focus on tourism and conventions. The new economic development entity would focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, the tech and knowledge economies. Edmonton Global would focus on promoting metro Edmonton internationally, by working with regional partners.
In a statement Monday afternoon, the EEDC said overall, it is pleased to have clarity of purpose within its new scope of work.
“Today’s decision by city council has presented EEDC with a clear path forward, building on successes and experience we have in the visitor economy and venue management space,” EEDC interim CEO Maggie Davison said.
“We are developing a strategy that will support Edmonton’s economic growth goals, using our expertise in tourism, and both the Edmonton Convention Centre and the Edmonton Expo Centre, to drive significant economic impact for our community.
“We want to make sure, as we work with our partners and stakeholders, that we set Edmonton up for success when the time comes to relaunch activities to welcome travellers and host events at our venues.”
The EEDC added that while many of the pieces are in place to begin executing its new mandate right away, “there will be some reorganization, with strategic plans under development.”
There was also talk Monday about that new entity — or another Edmonton tourism body — potentially taking on K-Days and Farmfair International at the Expo.
Coun. Tony Catarina pointed out that Northlands historically accessed federal grant money, and wanted to make sure this city-run entity could do the same.
“There’s probably a 99.9 per cent chance that Northlands will not exist, which is fair,” Caterina said. “But, their ability, as a non-profit, with the granting process, and I’m thinking more of Farmfair or that relationship, not necessarily the (K-Days) fair.”
“It would be clear for us that we could proceed in that direction and work with the two entities,” city manager Adam Laughlin said.
Iveson said collaborating with Northlands on running K-Days or Farmfair is not a new discussion and there’s been suggestions of consolidation opportunities with Edmonton Tourism.
“For many years now, there have been challenges as the organization has adjusted to changing realities,” he said, adding the most recent was a funding cut from the provincial government.
Iveson said Northlands saw a cut in support (as an agricultural organization) that the Calgary Stampede did not see.
“To the extent that Northlands hosts a number of events, including K-Days… We don’t lose Farmfair and the ability to have a major summer fair… it’s timely that Northlands is willing to work with the City of Edmonton on coming together.”
Councillors approved the new innovation entity unanimously, reallocating $11 million from the EEDC towards it. About $5 million per year is being reallocated to fund it, starting in 2021.
Iveson explained resources are being “re-prioritized and restructured to get best results going forward without injecting new dollars into the system.”