Update: I ended up hearing back from Waye Mason right away, and Savage a month later saying the information in The Coast was inaccurate.
Dear Mr. Mayor, Councillor Watts, and Councillor Mason,
Regarding this news article: http://www.thecoast.ca/
Halifax, as I’m sure you’re aware, is bleeding population. Our past is dying of old age, and our future is moving out west; to Ontario, to Alberta. There is one industry that isn’t running away as fast as they can. Tech. As I’m sure you’re aware, even Google has recognized Halifax as a (as much as I hate to say it) world-class city.
Up until just last week, I was planning on leaving Halifax forever. I didn’t particularly want to, I had no choice. I’m having a child in a month, and want to do whats best in the long run. I got lucky, and found a very good job at the last second here in Halifax.
There are hundreds of people with million dollar ideas, but don’t have the opportunity to flesh them out. A million dollar idea without the ability to follow through is worth less than the paper it’s printed on.
Mayor Savage, every time you speak at a tech or startup related event, you make sure to mention how important the tech industry is, how you support it, and how you want people to succeed. Ever since the very first Apps4Halifax hackathon at Volta.
Volta is basically at capacity right now. There are far more applicants than can be housed. The companies are also limited to a small office, with little to no infrastructure other than a couple of boardrooms and a common area. This is great for those software companies that can get in. Hardware unfortunately, not so much. There are many people in Halifax who are at the forefront of hardware development. We have a huge ICT student population, we have dozens of IT companies. We have military contractors, biomedical companies.. Did you know one of the designers of the Commodore 64 works in Burnside?
Yet we have a city that claims to be on board with “open data” yet stonewalls any attempt to use it to the citizens benefit. we have a community workshop, Halifax Makerspace, that can barely sustain itself and is at the whim of discretionary spending by quasi-governmental organizations. Mayor Savage, I’ve sat in an audience at least three times in the last year and you made it clear you want the tech industry to succeed.
I want you to live up to that.
I recently traveled to Waterloo, Ontario. What I saw there was a tech mecca. Not only is the ICT industry encouraged, it’s actively supported by the local and provincial governments. Things that programmers do for fun in Halifax, are well funded startups in Waterloo. Google chose to make it’s home there. Facebook is moving in. Twitter is moving in. There are billions of dollars of investments going into the city. In two days there, I was approached about employment no less than three times. I’m still getting calls, asking me if I’d move there. In those same two days, I saw the bleeding edge of tech in North America. Canadian Tire, TD, Manulife, all of these companies are pouring money into R&D.
Why not here?
Waterloo is only the size of Dartmouth, but with four hundred tech companies. They have not one, but three startup incubators, (Communitech, Communitech Hub, and Velocity Garage, which specalizes in hardware). They are easily 15 years ahead of us right now, and I truly believe we can do better.
The old library is a huge stepping stone. It would provide Volta the opportunity to expand into hardware, to bring in more companies, and to better support the local ICT industry. Plus, from my understanding, the plan is to have the hardware lab and common areas open to the public. This is a $200,000 hardware lab that would make the Makerspace look like a playschool. The only thing they need is a place to set up shop.
Why tear the building down to build a park? This could be game changing! We have parks. In fact, we have a lot of parks. But I can’t think of a single multi-million dollar company started in a park. I can’t think of any high paying jobs created in a park. Volta was founded by self made men. They started with nothing, and turned their knowledge into millions.
People aren’t going to come back for a stroll in yet another park downtown. They’re going to come back because they can support their family. Waterloo doesn’t have any innate advantage over Halifax. They just have support. People want to move here, but they don’t have opportunities. People don’t have a future here.
Mayor Savage, I ask that you give them that future.