Council hits pause on ‘innovation hub,’ wants more entrepreneur input

City council paused plans for an “innovation hub” Tuesday and asked the Edmonton Economic Development Corp. to go back and consult with local entrepreneurs on what they see as the best way forward to support startup tech companies in the city.

Ward 5 Coun. Sarah Hamilton brought the motion to stop and revisit the EEDC’s strategy for innovation in the city, saying she is frustrated that entrepreneurs were excluded from the development of plans of which they are supposed to be beneficiaries.

“In the process of developing this strategy, we’ve agitated and burned that community, and it makes me consider how we gain back that credibility,” Hamilton said.

Earlier this month, local entrepreneurs told council they want less city involvement in startup tech companies and asked for changes to the way EEDC offers support. The outcry came following the presentation of a series of EEDC reports on innovation initiatives to council.

One of the proposals the entrepreneurs objected to is moving Startup Edmonton from its current home in the downtown Mercer Warehouse.

Hamilton said the city gives EEDC $20 million per year and said it’s really hard to find metrics about what value that provides to the city.

During a debate that became heated at times, councillors lobbed questions at EEDC CEO Derek Hudson, and aired concerns about municipal government and EEDC involvement in local business, which Ward 11 Coun. Mike Nickel said he’s heard expressed repeatedly.

“We’re getting tied up on process. Endless process,” Nickel said.

Other motions passed during council’s meeting Tuesday call for information that will paint a broader picture of EEDC’s operations, including a report on salaries.

Hamilton said she’s also going to ask the city’s audit committee to look at recommending an audit of the EEDC, including Startup Edmonton and TEC Edmonton, a venture with the University of Alberta to promote growth of tech companies.

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