By Yvonne Pilon
On Friday, June 3rd, I traveled my way up the 401 to spend part of the day exploring Chatham-Kent with the goal of learning more about the Innovation and Entrepreneurial (Business) community in the region. Special thanks to Geoff Wright, Business Development Specialist of the Chatham-Kent Economic Development Office for being such a fantastic guide and a true champion of this great region. As a side note, if you are ever need a tour or looking for innovation or just want to talk government funding incentives for that next cool project, Geoff’s your guy.
FYI: In the event that you’re not aware, WEtech Alliance also serves the region of Chatham-Kent in addition to Windsor-Essex.
To our colleagues and business community in CK, we look forward to working with you to continue building our amazing region. It’s time we look at Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent as the next BIG economic, entrepreneurial and innovation corridor!
FYI: Chatham-Kent is a community of 104,000 located in the heart of Southwestern Ontario. Chatham-Kent is really just one great big town, dispersed across 2400 km2 of rural /urban landscape. For more information about CK, visit http://www.chatham-kent.ca/.
After a few hours touring around and meeting some incredible entrepreneurs and businesses, I thought it would be wasteful to not share some of my takeaways with #YQG from this truly eye-opening visit. So here it is, my “10 Things I Learned About #CKONT”.
1. CK is Raising the Roof – With Innovation
Enviroshake products are composite ‘high tech’ roofing and siding product made from recycled polymers, elastomers and cellulosic fibre materials. Enviroshake replicates the look of cedar shakes, Enviroshingle, replicates the look of cedar shingles, and Enviroslate replicates the look of natural slate, while all providing long-term durability, UV protection, wind & hail resistance, along with superior mold, mildew and insect resistant properties. In addition, the products can all be installed efficiently with less waste than traditional cedar or slate, do not require any pretreatments, and once installed are maintenance free. The products do not require any additional preservatives or coatings (which are normally recommended with wood and other products); and they will retain their physical properties and look for decades and have a Lifetime Warranty. Check them out at www.enviroshake.com.
2. CK is Truly Green
Truly Green Farms just completed Phase 2 of its expansion in Chatham-Kent. The first phase successfully grew 22.5 tomato varieties. By the end of 2016 the crop will be using waste heat from GreenField’s Ethanol production – another CK company. The ability of Truly Green Farms to use carbon dioxide and waste heat from GreenField Ethanol creates a negative carbon footprint…thus Truly Green IS truly green.
3. CK Is Great With Words
Scribendi was founded in 1997, and is one of the world’s oldest and biggest online editing and proofreading companies. Their primary goal is to provide clients with fast, reliable, and affordable language services. Since their inception, they have focused on innovation, customer service, and high-quality editing and proofreading. They have edited more than 752 million words and processed more than 300,000 orders. In addition to editing and proofreading, the Scribendi team also owns and operates Inklyo.com, a provider of online writing courses and ebooks. PROFIT and Canadian Business have ranked Scribendi President, Chandra Clarke, No. 29 on the 18th annual W100 list of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs. This is the seventh consecutive year Clarke has appeared on the list.
4. It’s Bradonna not Madonna in CK
Bradonna Woodwork Inc. originated from humble beginnings in 1981. The company manufactures wood products for the cabinet industry including, wood mouldings, turnings, corbels and butcher block tops. In 2015, Bradonna Woodwork Inc. was featured on the hit CBC Television Series Still Standing (click to watch). In true Canadian comical style, comedian Jonny Harris discovered Bradonna, while exploring the history of North Buxton. The show lifted the company’s profile by highlighting its expertise despite its rural geographic location. Bradonna Woodwork Inc. continues to grow in Chatham-Kent. Plans for the future include an expansion of a new 3,200 square foot building to facilitate additional production. Check them out at http://bradonna.com/. (Source: InvestCK.ca)
5. CK is Getting Retro and it Never Looked (And Felt) So Good
The Retro Suites Hotel combines historic elements of the King William Block with modern amenities, providing an unparalleled experience for guests to the region. The buildings that encompass the Retro Suites Hotel have undergone a series of renovations, with an emphasis placed on preserving their original character and architecture. The staircase, in the hotel’s lobby, dates back to 1895, when it was a part of the Merrill Hotel. The terrazzo floors and tin ceilings, along with the contemporary art and furnishings, give the Retro Suites Hotel its unique appeal. This is truly one of Southwestern Ontario’s Premier Boutique Hotel with 45 suites and 12 long term stay apartments located in Historic Downtown Chatham Ontario. If you’re looking for a place to stay or somewhere to host your next business meeting or event, check out Retro Suites http://retrosuites.com/. The Derby banquet room holds roughly 150 – 200 people – how do you say P A R T Y with style!
FYI: Make sure to check out the amazing and unique art along the halls. Who knew you could create such a masterpiece with a bunch of vice grips.
6. CK Young Entrepreneurs are Fueling Change and Re-imagining Vacant Spaces
To some, the old McKeough Public School is just a school. But for twin brothers Nate and Josh Blair, it’s a piece of history worth keeping alive. Blairs’ Boot Camp has offered fitness instruction and training at the former McKeough school since 2010 and is now moving to expand even further. The brothers have now expanded and renovated more of the classrooms to add a space for spin bike classes, hot yoga, and zumba dance. Blair said they are also looking to add self-defence classes in the near future. The school was originally built in 1882 and sat vacant for close to 15 years before the two brothers began renting space in April 2010. Prior to opening their boot camp in the school, the brothers held their fitness classes at Kingston Park, until deciding they needed a more permanent venue. (Source: Chatham-Kent Daily) Check them out at http://blairsbootcamp.com or take a tour to see what an abandoned school can be transformed into.
7. CK Knows Classic Cars and Nicolas Cage
RM Auto Restoration is North America’s leading classic car restoration facility. Whether it’s a complete ‘body-off’ restoration, a partial restoration, or a cosmetic upgrade, our dedicated team of restoration perfectionists provide an unwavering commitment to deliver flawless work and to the highest cosmetic presentation every time. Check them out at http://rmautorestoration.com/.
FYI: Comedian Jay Leno’s cars were refurbished here, and when actor Nicholas Cage was involved in an accident, guess where his automobile was shipped?
8. There’s Something Corny About CK
GreenField is the leading specialty alcohols producer in Canada, with a focus on corn-based bulk industrial alcohol, packaged alcohol and fuel ethanol, as well as associated agricultural co-products.
Chatham has one of only three dry mill continuous ethanol producing plants in North America. The facility is uniquely capable of alternating between fuel and industrial ethanol production.
- Fuel ethanol currently produced: between 103 and 133 million litres per year (mlpy)
- Industrial alcohol produced: between 60-90 mlpy
- CO2 emission reduction each year: 170,000 tonnes (net)
- Corn purchased each year: 19 million bushels
- Distillers’ grains returned to farmers as feed: approximately 150,000 tonnes
- In operation since: 1998
9. Data. Safe and Sound in CK.
The Entegrus Data Centre is located in the heart of Canada’s large concentration of green energy development, just an hour’s drive from three major US border crossings, centred in the heart of the industrial heartland of Ontario and a geographic location with minimal risk weather. Built to LEED Gold Certified standards, 1.0 MW Cummins diesel generator for emergency back up and comprehensive energy conservation measurement system. This co-location provider was designed with the needs of multi-department, data-heavy organizations in mind. For more information, visit www.entegrus.com.
10. CK is Tech Savvy
TekSavvy Solutions Inc. which was founded in January, 1998 is proud to call Chatham-Kent home. TekSavvy is one of Canada’s leading independent providers of telecommunications services. The company has been consistency recognized on the list of fastest growing companies in Canada, on Canadian Business magazines Profit 100 list. They have remained the #1 ranked ISP provider for 5 years and are on the Branham 300 Top 20 Movers & Shakers List.
Yvonne Pilon is the President and CEO of WEtech Alliance. She is also an Instructor at St. Clair College’s MediaPlex. As her Twitter profile suggests, she is a “Young professional passionate about entrepreneurship, tech and putting #YQG on the map”.