Canadian Business News

How Cochrane, Alberta Became a Technological Hub

The town has many advantages for the budding entrepreneur, rent remains low, parking is available, and there is the river for recreation.

Cochrane, a small town with a ranching history, may not seem like a hub for technological start-ups. But a handful of companies are giving the town its new tech hub status.

Building their business in the town of Cochrane was simply a matter of practicality for Kip Fyfe and Victoria Brilz co-founders of Dynastream Innovations Inc (now ANT Wireless). Located just 35 kilometres northwest of downtown Calgary, this town had everything to offer for them.

The couple quit their jobs in Calgary and started their wearable technologies company in 1998; its offerings included heart-rate monitors, devices for runners to monitor distance etc. Their first customer was Nike. Fast-forwarding to 2006, Garmin acquired Dynastream for $36-million. The company remains in the same town.

The next business venture the couple started too was run from the same office where they first worked out of, in 2012, they started 4iiii Innovations whose products included various sport s electronics for cyclists.

Other entrepreneurs too call Cochrane home, “The town has more than 20 knowledge-based innovation companies,” Robert Kalinovich, economic development officer for the Town of Cochrane said. The perception about the town of Cochrane is changing, he said.

The town has many advantages for the budding entrepreneur, rent remains low, parking is available, and there is the river for recreation. Out of 4iiii Innovations’ 30 employees, Mr Fyfe estimates about one-third live in Cochrane, while the rest reside at Calgary and commute to work.

Another reason that draws entrepreneurs is the absence of business taxes and the near absence of vehicle traffic. The town, however, does not have empty office spaces for new companies to move into right away, developers are being made aware of this, and new buildings are likely to be developed.

Cochrane is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and nestled in the Bow River Valley leading to beautiful views making it an enviable location. The outdoor activities available also make it very attractive for young entrepreneurs.

While geography cannot be copied, the town does many things that others can emulate. The town supports its entrepreneurs and proudly shares local stories.

When Nathan MacLauchlan, chief technology officer at Frontier Telemetry, relocated to Cochrane from Calgary, he too was motivated by the affordable housing and nature trails. His company designs and manufactures remote camera systems that can easily integrate into Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition networks, systems for gathering and analyzing real-time data. As the newly developed offices spaces go up in Cochrane, more entrepreneurs will come bringing their skills and help transform the place further. Hopefully, all the while maintaining the calm and serene nature the town is known for.

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