Minister Jinny Sims sees Greater Trail as well positioned to become a vibrant hub for high tech industries.
The question now becomes, “How can the province help stretch broadband connectivity outside city centres and into outlying rural areas to support more start-up opportunities?”
“I found that local governments have been forward thinking in investment, in broadband, ” she told the Trail Times following a three-day tour last week.
“And realizing that if we are going to grow the economy into the 21st century, it’s got to be with the new railroads – and the new railroads are the broadbands.”
Honourable Jinny Jogindera Sims is Minister of Citizens’ Services, which is the branch of government that provides a wide range of services both in person and online primarily through Service BC, as well as access to freedom of information and information technology infrastructure.
“I always use this analogy,” she said. “In the old days we built a railroad across Canada that not only connected communities, but also led to a massive economic growth, with movement of good and services and people.”
She likens optic fibre networks to the “railroad of the future.”
“And with broadband where it opens up possibilities, almost every community I went to I met people who are living there for the lifestyle whether it was in Trail, Rossland, Nelson or Castlegar – but what they are doing is thousands of miles away.”
Amongst her stops were a shared workspace for freelancers and entrepreneurs in Nelson called the Jam Factory; Thoughtexchange, which is an international software company based in Rossland; and in Trail, the MIDAS Fab Lab and Metal Tech Alley, located in the i4C facility near the Trail airport.
“I saw the amazing amount of economic impetus that has been added,” Sims said. “This is where we have a great deal of interest, as a minister and our government, is absolutely focused on economic growth,” she added.
“One way for economic growth and jobs in our rural communities, and the foundational piece for me, is through connectivity.”
Sims’ was so impressed with the MIDAS site in Glenmerry, she said her ministry will be returning next year to showcase the company as model for new industry.
“We are looking at areas that have done things that are working and working well, (so) we are going to come back and profile it, ” Sims explained.
“Some of the staff from the ministry will come (back to Trail) and they will spend more time there, and explore (how) MIDAS works, why does it work, and how can we replicate it for other areas.”
She was also very encouraged by the technology and innovation happening daily as Metal Tech Alley moves toward building digital fabrication and advanced materials/metallurgy on a global scale.
“I was so very impressed,” Sims said. “The biggest challenge for us now, is that we have broadband in sections, so how do we grow that broadband to the local community as well as fuel this new economic growth.”
New technologies, including satellite and private ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are likely a key to continuous connectivity, which might eventually be possible even in the Kootenay mountain passes.
“Those are big challenges for us as a province,” she said. “And we’re trying to address those, so we are beginning to work with private service providers to see what some of the alternatives are.”
The last time Sims toured the area was about 10 years ago in her role as leader of the BC Teachers’ Federation.
She was encouraged by the changes since then and the promising growth potential in the Kootenays.
“So it’s been a few years since I’ve been there and I was pleased to see that things are moving again,” Sims concluded. “After a number of years when things were static or declining, including student enrolment in Trail, it was good to see that things are on the rise again and more people are moving in.”