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Technology Industry fuels Nelson economy

BC Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, Michelle Mungall, recently toured the tech industry in Nelson. Top left, clockwise, Mungall with Brad Pommen of SMRT1 Techologies; Will Buchanan, Leanna Andrews, Asif Delhi and Chris Shinnimin at Traction on Demand; Derek Sandquist, Jim Mclachlan and Lyndon Lieport at Valid Manufacturing Ltd.; and Rob Stacey, principle architect viewing the computers with Rose Hoher and Michelle Mungall. — The Nelson Daily photos

In 2019, when Pacific Insight closed operations at the facility west of Nelson, many thought that decision would put a serious dent in tech-based companies in the area.

However, nestled in buildings, shared-space cubicles and homes is a tech community that is thriving and keeping Nelsonites employed in a clean-based industry.

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, who recently was moved into the Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness portfolio last month by BC Premier John Horgan, recently staged a media toured to many tech companies located in Nelson, to witness this cottage industry in action.

“Although Pacific Insight closed in 2019, there are still over 230 tech companies in the area, so it plays an important and growing role in our local economy,” Mungall said in a statement.

“Our Crown agency, Innovate BC, provides funding, tools, resources and support to innovators in the Kootenays and throughout the province.”

“For example, Innovate BC has supported the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST), an organization that helps build and support the technology community in the Kootenay region,” Mungall added.

“KAST also provides tools and resources to help emerging manufactures to more effectively develop their products.”

The tour began at DPace, a local company that supplies products to the international commercial accelerator industry. Located in the large brick building at the corner of Front and Hall Street, DPace recently won a $1 Million USD contract to develop and test an ion source system.

The tour continued to other businesses — CoreLogic, SMRT1, Technology, Traction on Demand, Cover Architecture Collaborative Inc., Advanced Technology and Valid Manufacturing Ltd.

During the tour Mungall was made aware the many challenges local tech companies are experiencing working in a rural, small-town location.

Some of those challenges included finding rental accommodations for employees, the lack of reliable transportation in and out of Nelson — especially during the winter months — and finding employees, locally.

“Clean Tech is an important sector in B.C. because it supports us in realizing our CleanBC goals,” Mungall explained.

“B.C. has more than 270 clean tech companies that provide good jobs for people, reduce environmental impacts and help keep our industries on the leading edge of innovation.”

While the loss of Pacific Insight put a serious dent in the Nelson economy, it may have been a blessing for Salmon Arm-based business, Valid Manufacturing Ltd.

Founded in 1991, Vilad Industries thought the company could scoop some of the talent cast aside by Pacific Insight to work in the Shuswap. But when workers decided to consider other options, so too did Valid Industries.

“When the (Valid Manufacturing Ltd.) owners had heard about Pacific Insight closing, they started reaching out to some of the employees to move to Salmon Arm,” said a spokesperson for Valid Manufacturing Ltd.

“No one that they talked to really had any interest of moving to Salmon Arm, so we thought we’d come to them.”

Valid Manufacturing Ltd. hired eight workers from Pacific Insight and opened an office in Nelson.

“We’re definitely looking at growing in the area as well knowing there are a lot of very skilled people who were displaced with Pacific Insight moving," the Valid Manufacturing Ltd. spokesperson explained. 

“There were over 200 people in that building two years ago . . .. There are a lot of opportunities so we’re looking at ways to hopefully bring manufacturing into this area again, hiring some of that skilled labour back into the jobs they previously had.”

Mungall said the provincial government provides a wide array of support for the clean tech sector at all stages of growth including through the BC Tech Fund.

She said the fund invests in B.C.-based clean tech companies and venture capital funds with a clean tech focus to help them scale-up and grow.

“We are providing over $785,000 to the Alacrity Foundation’s Cleantech Scale-Up program, funding which is matched by Western Economic Diversification,” Mungall said.

“Also, in place is B.C.’s Innovative Clean Energy Fund which helps advance promising clean energy technology by investing in leading clean tech companies, universities, First Nations and municipalities.”

“These are just a few examples of the programs and support we have in place to support the clean tech sector,” Mungall adds.

Tech Companies Nelson Tour:

  • D-Pace supplies products to the international commercial accelerator industry, which includes beamline systems, beam diagnostic devices, and ion sources for research, industrial, and commercial accelerator systems.  
  • CoreLogic provides information intelligence to identify and manage growth opportunities, improve business performance and manage risk. Clients see a market leader for unique property-level insights backed by science and analytics. Delivering business operations, addressing challenges and acting quickly to present innovative, cost-effective solutions.  
  • SMRT1 technology company in Nelson, BC specializes in solutions that are a fusion of interactive touchscreens that provide automated retail a data-rich and engaging customer experience
  • Traction on Demand is one of North America’s largest Salesforce consulting and application development firms. Its work extends beyond cloud services; building long-term capacity through partnership and customer enablement.  
  • Cover Architecture Collaborative Inc. is committed to energy conservation and sustainable design. The company has completed both Certified PassiveHouse and Energy Step Code projects and believe that every project offers an opportunity to build better. Sustainability is integrated into work from the initiation of the project through the end of the construction period. Advanced Technology utilizes Building information modeling (BIM) software, which allows for 3-D visualization of the project. This is a valuable tool for communicating with clients and stakeholders and allows a deep understanding of the building before moving forward with construction.
  • Valid Manufacturing Ltd. is a privately owned and operated Canadian company, founded in 1991. Working directly with customers, Valid’s engineering and design teams utilize innovation and proven technology to develop and manufacture cost-effective solutions for industrial, commercial and recreational vehicle applications.   

Thomas Stewart, Chief Operating Officer at DPace tours BC Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, Michelle Mungall through the operation at Hall and Front Street in Nelson. — The Nelson Daily photo

Laura Salekin, Senior manager of Client Services at CoreLogic discusses some of the challenges with BC Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, Michelle Mungall and Rose Hoher. — The Nelson Daily photo