When Sarnia-Lambton was undergoing a particularly troublesome time from an economic standpoint, a former Member of Parliament for our area, Roger Gallaway decided he would do something about it—the “it” being a lack of sustainable investment in the area that included a “winding down” of Dow Chemical’s Canadian presence and a general economic malaise.
The year was 1994 and Gallaway had been elected a year earlier as part of the electoral sweep that brought the Liberals under Jean Chretien into power. Having defeated incumbent Ken James, Gallaway didn’t waste much time in taking the initiative that eventually resulted in the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership.
Larry Gordon, who at the time was news director at CHOK, told me he remembered a conversation with Gallaway on the sidewalk outside the radio station’s former studios on Front Street, with Gallaway telling him that “something had to be done.”
Perhaps not a direct quote but one that certainly conveyed the sense of determination in Gallaway’s voice.
Today, much of the initiative that began nearly a quarter century ago (24 years ago this summer) is now part of a sustainable force that includes initiatives that followed, including the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, an increasingly successful Lambton College, and investments in new plants, among them BioAmber, Comet Biorefining, and more recently Origin Materials, which has moved into the area and has plans for a new plant.
There are numerous other examples, and we’ll be talking (and writing) about them soon enough.
But I wanted to draw particular attention to one of the smaller but likely significant initiatives that we can expect to make a difference on our path of transformation.
Like the pieces of the legendary geodesic dome that R. Buckminster Fuller helped to perfect (for which he received a patent on June 29, 1954), I believe it’s the entire business community, made up of large, small and inbetween sized enterprises, that will ultimately help create a community that’s truly sustainable in the broadest sense.
One young man I met in the last couple of years—Liwordson Vijayabalan—is one of those who is determined to lead by example.
Li and I (few people other than his mother call him Liwordson) met not quite two years ago, the result of one of those “you should meet this guy” introductions, which eventually lead to a friendship and a business opportunity that’s probably not yet fully developed.
His company, Tomorrow Media (since rebranded to TMRRW Inc.) eventually won the contract to do a major (as in complete overhaul) of a website for the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce), and now they (mostly through the technical handiwork of Lewis Menelaws, one of the TMRRW Inc. partners) are handing the backend operations of Lambton Shield.
Since then, I’ve been following their progress, including the moving of the company’s offices to the top floor of the former Taylor’s Furniture building at 140 Christina St. N.
But that’s hardly the end of the story. The founders are also moving forward on a dream to create a “shared space” in the same building, taking over the second floor/mezzanine of the building to create Altspace, 3,000 square feet of the building that the team sees as central to filling a void in the business community.
They’ll be appealing to entrepreneurs, some of them creative types but not always, who might be otherwise working from home or the occasional coffee shop.
“There has never been an opportunity like this in Sarnia,” says Vijayabalan. “It’s a solution for small teams or solo operators and Altspace members get to set up shop in a space that takes care of everything so they can focus on what they do best.”
It’s dreams like these that keep the ball rolling as far as growth in Sarnia-Lambton is concerned.
Like the day Roger Gallaway talked about pulling all the “thinkers” and “doers” together to begin setting the stage for a different sort of value creation, folks like Liwordson Vijayabalan and his colleagues—Lewis Menelaws, Jason Neung included—are going to be the ones a generation coming up behind them will be lauding.
Let’s keep it going.