A Conversation with Founding Chairperson Ryan Williams
With the ambitious goal of establishing the Bay of Quinte Region as am innovative, energized, diverse and dynamic centre for rural entrepreneurial excellence, a group of forward-thinking business and community leaders have come together to create Quintevation.
Inspired, developed and launched by entrepreneurs and those who support entrepreneurs, Quintevation is a non-profit, self-governing organization that operates with a ‘ground up’ as opposed to ‘top down’ principle. It’s vision is to bring together anyone and everyone who believes in the Bay of Quinte region’s bright future, and who want to harness the already burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit and abundant, leading-edge talent to spur growth within key economic sectors as well as to establish the Bay of Quinte region as the benchmark for rural economic development within Canada.
“We have great home prices here, we’re close enough to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to have access to bigger markets, but we also have an incredible place to live and raise a family or to retire. We have all the lakes and rivers; we have the waterfront along the Bay of Quinte, lots of outdoor recreational opportunities, but also amazing cultural opportunities. We have an educated workforce and people with great ideas and energy,” said Quintevation’s chairperson, Ryan Williams.
“One thing we also saw that it was still hard to draw young people here, or get our young people to come back home after school. We are getting young people coming here through immigration but we realized that, as a region, we’re just not creating the jobs we need to create that would attract people to move here. When this process started more than two years ago, we brought all the economic development officers together and looked at some initiatives where we could work at driving young people here. We looked to see what holes we had in our economy comparted to other regions across Canada, the U.S. and even over in Europe. So as we did that work we realized that something like Quintevation was needed to help spur on an overall economic development strategy, clustering of key economic and business sectors, enterprise facilitation to help businesses start, grow and scale up – and it needed to happen across the entire Bay of Quinte Region.”
As the name suggests, innovation in all its forms and manifestations, is at the heart of Quintevation’s philosophy.
“Innovation means thinking differently. We like to use the term ‘disruptors’ for these kinds of entrepreneurs. It’s the combination of new ideas and new technology. We are saying, let’s think rural and differently about what it means to have a rural economy. Let’s break the mould a little bit about what we’re looking at, what makes this region tick, what’s the future and what’s the real potential of this region. I’ve been in business for 14 year in the hotel and hospitality sector and I know that business is built on opportunity and it’s about taking risks and sort of predicting the future of business – predicting what is going to be attractive to customers; what is going to be the next best and the next big thing,” Williams continued.
“With Quintevation, we’re trying to do the same thing. The difference is we’re not predicting one or two years out, but 20 years out. We’re looking at our region and how it ticks and how it’s really going to grow in the next 20 years – that’s the point behind this whole initiative. Quintevation aims to unite the whole Bay of Quinte Region as a hub of entrepreneurial spirit, thinking and action. And that’s our real mission and vision – to accelerate Bay of Quinte-inspired sector growth. Scale is another word for that. We want to find out what’s already happening organically here and find ways to help that grow.”
Williams and the Quintevation board of directors and staff, led my GM Mary Doyle, understand that small and medium-sized businesses, ones led primarily by energetic, enthusiastic entrepreneurs, are the backbone of not only the regional economy, but the national economy and they designed Quintevation to be responsive to the needs of local business owners in ways that are constructive, impactful and ultimately profitable.
“The number one rule is that no one creates jobs but the job creators, and in our case it’s the entrepreneurs. Maybe 100 years ago you could say that government used to create jobs, but it doesn’t any more, although some would argue differently. It’s entrepreneurs that create jobs and then those jobs are the ones that feed and grow the economy. Of the jobs being created today, about 90 per cent of them are being created by small businesses and entrepreneurs. And that’s true especially for rural areas like ours,” he said.
“Other growth areas of Ontario are bedroom communities of Toronto, but that’s not the case for the Bay of Quinte. We have to rely on our own economic initiatives; we have to rely on our own entrepreneurs who are developing things. So the philosophy we have is that we have to stick to those who are already organically creating those jobs here and then to try to cluster those to create even more energy and drawing power.”
Even though Quintevation is a non-governmental body, partnering with local and regional municipalities, as well as the federal government through its various economic and community development programs such as FedDev Ontario, area Community Futures Development Corporations and others. This has proved to be the most effective and flexible model for all parties.
“We found that Quintevation needed to be privately led in the sense that entrepreneurs need to help entrepreneurs, so when we came up with the composition of the board and the structure of the organization it was going to be entrepreneur led, but with strong partnerships with government. That’s the difference in how we work compared to other programs which are structured around government programs and funding,” Williams said.
“We do not discount the value that government has in creating jobs. But as a non-government, non-profit corporation, we needed to go out and, in the best interests of the region, get community leaders who share our vision to put initiatives together and partner with the government and put the best plan in place to go and create jobs and create a better future.
“The way we’re structured, we don’t have to worry about the cycles and flows of funding. We can pivot in the directions that the entrepreneurs and members need us to go. And we are always listening to the members, because we want them to take the lead, and we just want to support them. It’s like in hockey; we’re more interested in getting assists than scoring the goals – we want the business owners and business organizations to score the goals. We want to ensure that those people and those industries that are driving this economy get the support they need to grow.”
So why should a business owner, organization or business booster want to get involved in Quintevation? One solid reason is that Quintevation has partnered with StartUp Canada, allowing local entrepreneurs in the Bay of Quinte Region to take advantage of nationwide resources and networking opportunities.
“So just as we say being involved in Quintevation connects you with people from Napanee to Brighton, being involved with StartUp Canada connects you now with Kamloops, Montreal, Halifax and hundreds of communities in between. Being part of StartUp Canada allows us to get the resources that can help the Bay of Quinte Region be the best shining example of rural economic development in all of Canada,” said Williams.
Becoming part of Quintevation is easy, and free. It’s also open to more than just business owners, but anyone who wants to be involved to help build and grow the economy within the Bay of Quinte Region. Access to a private network on the Slack communications app has been a key source of connectivity in the early stages of Quintevation’s development.
“By being a part of Quintevation, even if it’s just by communicating and networking through Slack, you’re part of a bigger community and a community that wants to see this rural region grow. And it’s also a group of people who want to help each other solve their problems in order to grow. There is a huge networking component through a variety of meet ups, but also through facilitating meetings with other groups and organizations, such as the chambers of commerce,” Williams explained.
“Besides the networking of people and industries, it’s the networking of this region. We’re the only organization that I know of in this whole region that connects Brighton, Napanee, Prince Edward County, Belleville, Quinte West, Tyendinaga and more. We connect all parts of this region together at all times and it’s very important because this is a socio-economic region that shares a lot of similarities in geography and population and resources. If businesses are going to grow, they need to be connected throughout the region. The more that happens, I think we’re going to be a lot more successful than other regions who aren’t as connected.”
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Over the ensuing months and years, Quintevation will continue to evolve and pivot to meet the needs of businesses within the Bay of Quinte Region. Ultimately, there is a very personal reason for why Williams, the board members and staff of Quintevation are so keen and so dedicated to the organizations mission and mandate.
“When you break it down, why I do it and why everyone in this organization does it is that we’re really doing this for the next generation. I have children and other members have children or grandchildren and we’re doing it because we want to do good for the region. We want to build a better community, a place that will continue to thrive and prosper and provide good jobs and good opportunities for the next generation to succeed. So that’s why we do it.”
Contact Quintevation today.