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TechHub celebrates two years of promoting innovations in the SE

The event offered a glimpse at achievements and the progress that have been occurred over the past two years.

ESTEVAN — The Southeast TechHub marked two years of fostering innovation in the region on May 10.

A number of dignitaries and guests joined executive director Gordon More for a lunch celebration at the hub, located on Ninth Avenue.

The event offered a glimpse at achievements and the progress that have been occurred over the past two years.

More, who recently went back to school and enrolled in a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said that for him, the visit from former Estevan resident Dr. Eric Grimson, who is chancellor for academic advancement at MIT, was the most influential event TechHub put on.

Among the  other highlights of the past two years would be the partnership with the Southeast College, including hosting several Innovation Conversations with notable members of the tech industry; establishing the robot-building, computer science and drone racing clubs in partnership with the local education system; organizing the first local pitch competition; assistance with several startups; and progress on many other projects.

More said the community support has been tremendous throughout these two years, and the interest from people of all ages has been there as well.

"To build a community of innovation ... you have to have the community support. … You need to have the skill set, and you need to have the people who are willing to take some part in innovation, whether they're funding it or mentoring it, or what have you. It also takes community support to go out into the world and [introduce projects developed locally].

"So I knew when I started here that I needed to create a space for the kids who want to create innovation and be a part of the innovation community. Because as we saw with Eric [Grimson] and Jeff [Sandquist], they had to leave our community. And I think one of the biggest challenges that our community is facing right now is how to [change] it," More shared.

The event saw addresses from Estevan MLA Lori Carr, Mayor Roy Ludwig, Coun. Rebecca Foord, who is also the chair of the Innovation Council, and Angela Denys with Affinity Credit Union, which is one of the biggest sponsors for the SE TechHub.

"When we started the Innovation Centre two years ago, we truly had the idea of if you build it, they will come. We had our big grand opening. We had this great day, and then we were like, 'Now, what's next?' … And then we found Gord and we found a lot of what Gord found. We found so many new opportunities through that and so many different people that were interested in innovation," Foord said.

"I know when people hear the word innovation, they think technology and tech things, [so they think,] 'I don't know anything about tech, and I don't know anything about businesses or how to start a business'. But truly this place is just morphing everything. If you have an idea, if you have a technology idea, if you have a business idea, please just come on down," she added.

Carr complimented More's approach to work and thanked him for what he's been doing for the community.

"When he sees a vision, he really truly goes for it. And it all is in the best interest of our community," Carr said.

The mayor noted that there are several new projects in the works for the area which make the future for Estevan look exciting.

"For our community, we haven't done a lot on the innovation side, on the new technology side. And the more we work towards that, the more interesting and exciting it becomes," Ludwig said.

Denys noted that TechHub's goals align with the credit union's values.

"The credit union is a company that values innovation, creativity and social impact. We believe that TechHub is a vital asset for the economic development, diversification of Estevan and surrounding areas. The collaboration with entrepreneurs to increase the likelihood of success aligns with our community values. So, we are proud to be a sponsor and to support the transformative work that's being done daily by the TechHub team," Denys said.

The day also saw a special address recorded by Estevan expat Jeff Sandquist, a former vice-president at Microsoft, who currently helps run Automattic, which is most notable for WordPress.

"I might live in Carnation, Washington, these days, but my home will always be Estevan," Sandquist said in his video address.

"Whether you're young or old, technology is going to be a part of our lives. And one of the most important things to have is communication. And I just think it's so valuable to have a place like the TechHub where people of all ages can come together and learn more about technology, and more importantly, learn together on how to apply it," he added.

Guests also heard an update on the portable irrigation project by Wyatt Thompson, who was one-half of the pitch competition winning team, as well as a presentation of Wild Owl Orchard – a shippable farm innovative project currently in the works in the area.

The day wrapped up with an address from Tania Andrist, applied research lead officer with the SE College's Centre of Sustainable Innovation and TechHub's innovation partner. She reiterated the successful projects brought by the hub and the college, and outlined some exciting new innovative undertakings getting off the ground in the community, such as computer science training through projects, applied research opportunities and more. She also noted that over the past two years, the SE TechHub has become the space where people can come together, learn from each other, and discuss and grow their ideas.