The new Vernon Innovation and Entrepreneur Workspace is set to open in the old Naked Pig restaurant on 30th Avenue downtown mid-August 2020. (Community Futures North Okanagan - Contributed)

The new Vernon Innovation and Entrepreneur Workspace is set to open in the old Naked Pig restaurant on 30th Avenue downtown mid-August 2020. (Community Futures North Okanagan - Contributed)

Innovation Centre prepares to open doors to Vernon co-workers

Former restaurant re-imagined to host ideas from Vernon’s ‘hidden’ home-based workforce

Vernon’s first Innovation Centre is preparing to open and bring new opportunity to the city’s main street.

“This is a grassroots project that has seen many individuals and organizations work incredibly hard,” Community Futures North Okanagan (CFNO) general manager Leigha Horsfield said.

“To see the walls go up and the lights coming on, it’s amazing and we’re so thankful for their support and the support of our board, because this was a big leap,” she said.

The Innovation Centre is set to open in mid-August next door to Marten’s Pub.

It will feature 2,4000 square feet of space for meeting and co-working on the main floor, while the basement is a potential future link of the grassroots Creative Campus initiative with community partners, CFNO said in a July 8 statement.

The centre will also act as a hub for emerging and established freelancers and entrepreneurs and provide a space for collaboration, networking, learning and growing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lot of people working from home and seeking a place to belong post novel coronavirus, CFNO said. The events of recent months and new ways of working have fuelled demand for co-work space like the Innovation Centre is prepared to offer Vernon’s “hidden” home-based workforce.

“We are fielding a lot of queries and we’rehearing people say with family at home more of the time, they need another place to work and focus, and this way, they also get that check-in time with their peers,” CFNO business services manager Kazia Mullin said.

“We are so looking forward to seeing how members of our tech community with connections and experience will inspire others, including youth and Indigenous people, to take their business ideas forward,” Mullin said, adding the centre will open with health and safety protocols in place to ensure the well-being of all guests.

The idea behind the centre grew with support from local stakeholders and was pushed to fruition with local and federal funding and project management by CFNO. The centre, which will open in the former Naked Pig restaurant on 30th Avenue, will be managed by Accelerate Okanagan with longstanding tech community member Jessica Wicks at the helm.

“We are very committed to leveraging the feedback of the Vernon community to continue making this a centre they are proud of,” Wicks said.

Through its hub-and-spoke model, the centre will continue to inspire meaningful local collaboration with organizations such as The Okanagan Science Centre, Okanagan Regional Library, Vernon Arts Centre, City of Vernon, Okanagan College, School District 22 and others. This project is supported in part by Western Economic Diversification Canada.

READ MORE: New innovation hub coming to downtown Vernon

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@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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