By Heidi Lee
The city of Niagara Falls submitted a second proposal to implement a Ryerson-partnered research innovation zone in the area in December, according to Ryerson University president Mohamed Lachemi.
Lachemi said if Niagara’s proposal is successful, the university will work with the city of Niagara Falls to implement the model of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) in the area.
Ryerson submitted a statement of intent in 2015 to FedDev Ontario, a program that supports business and innovation developments in the province, but FedDev turned down the application.
“The Downtown area in Niagara Falls is pretty empty,” said Lachemi. “We hope to build a hub that can bring energy, collaboration and opportunities for youths and entrepreneurs in the region.”
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said the city has been keeping in regular contact with the federal Ministry of Economic Development and the proposal is still waiting for approval from the federal government.
In 2017, Diodati told The Eyeopener that Ryerson was firming up partnerships and attempting to better match the FedDev application so the proposal would be successful.
“The Downtown area in Niagara Falls is pretty empty”
Over the past eight years, Ryerson’s Toronto-based DMZ assisted 383 tech startups by providing coaching, access to customers, resources and community, the DMZ director said via email.
These companies grow their businesses and hire new staff. As a result, almost 4,000 jobs were created, Snobar said.
Diodati said the key right now is to “get started.”
“Once we have the innovation hub established, we will be able to attract like-minded institutions and companies around the world,” he said.
The mayor said the new zone will be located in downtown Niagara Falls, near the city hall.
He also said he is expecting the zone to start small and eventually expand organically without harming the natural habitat of the city.
“Niagara Falls has a desirable quality of life which makes it a good environment for young entrepreneurs to thrive,” said Diodati. “Hopefully, our support to their entrepreneurial ideas will allow them to establish an attachment to the city.”
The project would cost $33 million and the city would contribute $4.2 million, according to a 2017 report on the Niagara Falls-Ryerson Innovation Hub Proposal.
The city would also provide Ryerson with the support, location and affordable accommodation while the university would decide what type of innovation the Niagara Falls zone would focus on.
Ryerson currently has 10 zones in total, catering to different fields and research areas including media, science and engineering.
The mayor said he is looking forward to the city’s potential partnership with Ryerson as it is a good opportunity to redevelop downtown Niagara Falls.
“It would be better if the government is able to industrialize the area”
Students who grew up around the Niagara Falls area said they are also hoping to see the city evolve.
Olivia Gillespie, a first-year early childhood education student whose hometown Ridgeway, Ont., is 30 minutes away from Niagara Falls, said she wants people to recognize the city as more than just its famous waterfall landmark.
“The Falls is a nice tourist attraction, but it would be better if the government is able to industrialize the area,” she said.
Like Gillespie, Ankit Sehgal, a first-year public health and safety student from Fonthill, Ont., said the falls is a great place to live.
Seghal, whose hometown is 15 minutes away from the falls, said he hopes the city will grow in the future.