Port Hope business incubator is a hub for new entrepreneurs and established businesses looking for new markets in Ontario East
When Mohit Sharma, Sumith Ragunathan and Nigel D’souza decided to launch their online marketing company eighteen months ago, deciding where to launch Xen Impact was easy – Ontario East. Deciding on their home base was also easy – The IDEAHUB in Port Hope.
Xen Impact specializes in online marketing for business. That includes Search Engine Optimization, web site development and social media strategies. “The market fundamentals were just right,” says Sharma. “West Northumberland is at the crossroads of getting into the wave of online technology and IDEAHUB presented a great support structure.”
While at the Ontario University Institute of Technology, Sharma and D’souza were introduced to the region through a project for Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation. It was Northumberland CFDC Executive Director Wendy Curtis who introduced them to the IDEAHUB in Port Hope. As well as the business incubator, Sharma says the support from the municipality and the community leaders has been crucial to their success.
‘Markets are shifting out of the cities into the smaller towns,” says Sharma, noting that entrepreneurs do not have to be in a larger city. “I think big cities are reaching their saturation point. In Port Hope, Cobourg and West Northumberland there is a lot of opportunity that is untapped.”
The quality of life in Port Hope is also a major factor. “I grew up in Toronto, I love Toronto, but people are amazing to deal with in Port Hope. There’s also this quiet, mellow sort of vibe. After you’re done work there’s no traffic. The quality of life, in my opinion is much better in the Northumberland region
Xen Impact is using the IDEAHUB in Port Hope as a base, but the company’s presence will be felt throughout Ontario East. For example, Sharma and D’souza will lead an online marketing presentation at the Ontario East Municipal Conference in Kingston this fall.
Xen Impact was one of the first tenants for IDEAHUB. Port Hope had heard of business incubators in Canada and the United States and conducted a feasibility that showed it was a very viable option for the community. IDEAHUB was developed with help from the federal government’s Community Adjustment Fund.
Judy Selvig, Director of Port Hope Economic Development and Tourism says the study showed IDEAHUB could help startup companies in Port Hope. “The first five years are the most difficult for a business, so whatever we could do as a municipality to foster the growth of businesses would help the long term economic viability of the community and the region. We look at IDEAHUB as a regional incubator because what is good for our community is good for the rest of the region.”
Selvig says IDEAHUB has been “phenomenal” in attracting new business to the region. She also says it is not just startup companies. Well established industries looking to expand into Ontario East are also tenants. “Tervita (a leading North American environmental and energy services company) has taken tenancy on a short term lease while they find a longer term location and do the due diligence on expanding into the region.”
As well as fielding inquiries from prospective tenants, Selvig is getting inquiries from other communities. “We are a unique model. We’re a private public partnership. The tenant leases are with the building owner and the municipality and partner organizations provide the support.”
Selvig also notes the importance of high speed broadband availability to IDEAHUB’s success. “It’s taken us in a more innovative and software media focus. It’s something we didn’t anticipate and it’s very exciting for a rural community to be able to do that.”