Budding entrepreneurs in Bonavista, a town of fewer than 4,000 people on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, now have a place to grow and incubate their ventures with the opening of a business development centre, called The Commons.
The 1,500-square-foot space offers a co-working area and access to resources and professional expertise. It's located on the second floor of the Bonavista-Trinity Regional Chamber of Commerce's Public Building. It's currently in “light operation” and will be fully operational this month.
John Norman, Mayor of Bonavista, said The Commons is a response to the rise of entrepreneurship in the area.
“Young people are flooding into the community,” said Norman in an interview. “And they are generally creatives. They’re inventors, engineers, artists and artisans. They are producing things that are of high export value.”
The businesses in Bonavista primarily focus on product manufacturing and export. Norman used the Bonavista Coffee Company, one of two local coffee roasters in the community, as an example.
He said that in the past three years there have been 57 new businesses launched in Bonavista alone and the majority of the entrepreneurs are in their 20s or 30s.
“We like to think of ourselves as an entrepreneurial ecosystem right now. If you’re going to launch or create a business in Newfoundland, most people are eyeing Bonavista,” said Norman. “It’s very affordable, the risks are still there but they’re minimized. It’s much more affordable and the livability of the region is a selling factor these days.”
The Commons was able to get up and running with $350,000 in funding from bodies such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and the Bonavista-Trinity Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Entrepreneurs will be allowed to incubate their business in the space for about one year for a rental fee or drop-in cost that's yet to be determined. Currently, there are three applicants slated to work out of the new space.
Norman feels that young folks and new entrepreneurs are attracted to a place like Bonavista because of what he calls “place capital”, which references the postcard worthy landscape of Bonavista, its amenities, and culture that's specific to the area.
His companies, Bonavista Creative and Bonavista Living, aim to make the small town attractive for young folks by building a creative economy and turning ts historic houses into trendy, luxury homes.
Said Norman: “I think it's a town and a region that exemplifies rural vitality and opportunity. There is a growing minority of millennials that have become disenfranchised to urban living and don’t feel connected. What we’ve been able to do here is capitalize on our sense of place and livability.”
The official grand opening of The Commons will be July 20.