Ryerson’s Niagara Falls Research/Innovation Zone has been in the works since 2015 and it already has a fairly dramatic history.
As the would-be partners await feedback from FedDev Ontario on the university’s second application for federal money to launch the zone, it’s worth recounting that history to get you up to speed.
Below: hear a brief on the Niagara story, from the Ryersonian podcast.
The application follows years of effort by the city’s mayor to establish a post-secondary university presence downtown. In fact, the first meeting city council had about the zone saw members asked to pledge $10 million towards proceeding with a partnership with an unnamed post-secondary institution. The overwhelming majority of councillors supported it.
It was later revealed to be an application led by Ryerson. Neither the mayor, nor anyone on city council, said they had seen it. Nor do they know why it was rejected.
A second application is now underway and the city expects a response within three to four months. Aside from the city’s projected expense, this zone application has not been made available to the public, council members or, possibly even the mayor of Niagara Falls.
That’s been a regular cause of consternation for some council members.
“When you spend taxpayer money, the public should know what you’re spending it on,” said Niagara Falls city councillor Kim Craitor. “The explanation is they wanted to keep it confidential so they didn’t show it to us. I was told if it was approved by FedDev, we could see everything and decide if we want to do it, but we asked how can we approve an application if they’ve already approved the funding. They said we can say no at the end.”
Craitor said he is unsure how he will vote if it is approved.
Ryerson’s president, Mohamed Lachemi, responded that, “Incubators, like the 10 zones at Ryerson, give youth a platform to develop their ideas, to get experience working on their own, to learn from mentors or in teams, which often results in new companies and/or new jobs. I believe it is important that we work together to help keep youth and talent in the community and to create new economic opportunities.”
But, he said it is too early to discuss specific details regarding expense.
Timeline by Mitchell Thompson with help from Justin Chandler