A new way of doing business is going to be incubated and mentored right here in the border community of Amherst, with various levels of the private and public sectors committing over $1.5 million towards turning the former town hall – the Confederation Memorial Building – on Ratchford Street into a business innovation centre, theatre and meeting space. Of those partners, the federal government is committing $750,000 towards the renovations and repurposing through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s [ACOA] Innovative Communities Fund.
“The Town of Amherst’s forward thinking innovative centre will benefit our community for many years to come,” MP Bill Casey said during the official announcement Feb. 10. “It will provide a place for young businesses to develop, existing business to collaborate and community groups to strengthen local connections.”
Casey will have an office in the centre when completed, as will the regional office for ACOA and the Cumberland Business Development Corp [CBDC]. As a centre to develop business and connect entrepreneurs as well as existing businesses with services, Amherst will be taking a lead in creating a new economy for itself and surrounding areas by investing $524,921 into the development, Mayor Robert Small said.
“As soon as you walk in the door you’ll be greeted by CBDC. They are our managing partner in the project and they are the ones you should see first,” Small said. “They will be able to direct you whatever the issue is. Whether your trying to come up with a business plan; maybe you’re just have an idea and need to talk to other businesses, they will be the link to allowing that person to connect with other business persons within our community.”
Workshops and community events will also be housed under the roof of the former town hall, Small said, and the addition of a theatre space will allow for arts and culture to thrive in the downtown. For their part, the provincial government is providing an additional $100,000 towards the development under the Dept. of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
“This new development will benefit not only the people of Amherst, but the entire area,” Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell said. “Innovative infrastructures projects like this, where an older building like this is being repurposed, are an outstanding use of resources.”
Dubbed the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre, the Credit Union has committed $200,000 over seven years to the centre.
“We at the Community Credit Union were blown away at the town’s foresight at the proposed use for the facility “ Community Credit Union chair Bev Cooke said.
The building served as the Town of Amherst’s town hall until 2012 and when the renovations are complete the centre will have the capacity to accommodate groups as large as 135 people in its training room on the main floor and smaller groups in two other meeting rooms.