A local incubator program for budding entrepreneurs will live on for at least one more year.
Catapult, which launched in Red Deer in 2017, was set to close its doors at the end of March because it appeared that the provincial government may cancel the Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator (AEI) fund.
Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous indicated as much at a Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 18.
Danielle Klooster, the Senior Business Development Advisor at Catapult, confirms that the government saw the light and is providing one additional year of core funding for it and all other incubators across the province.
“It may have been a result of the advocacy that was done,” Klooster says, referencing a one-on-one conversation she had with the minister following the luncheon.
“It should be noted that, number one, Red Deer - North MLA Kim Schreiner asked us to send an email with the details and we feel she really advocated for us. It is absolutely appreciated that they listened and responded.”
Funding for the third year will amount to around $160,000, compared to the $300,000 Catapult received in each of its first two years.
“The funding that we have been receiving through Alberta Innovates has some specific mandates attached to it. It has been to support entrepreneurs in the innovation space, so the science and knowledge-based technology kind of entrepreneurs,” Klooster explains.
“The kind of funding that we have been offered this third year is to support the start-up entrepreneurs in those lanes. But pursuing the other pots of money that we are working on will help us broaden our mandate and support other entrepreneurs because true economic diversity doesn’t just go in one direction.”
With the additional dollars comes a relocation for Catapult into a yet to be determined space with its parent organization, Red Deer’s Downtown Business Association.
Klooster says being in the same building will streamline a lot work, including administratively.
“The reason the DBA wanted to be the parent company of our organization is because they strongly believe in economic development in the region,” she says. “But it also serves the downtown, so people can see the vibrancy of the downtown and it’s a win for everyone. It’s a best-case scenario.”
In its third year, Catapult expects to help 20-25 additional entrepreneurs. It had 22 enrolled in the program as of mid-January.
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