Two megapods stand waiting for the right customers at the Columbia Lake Technology Centre. Photo by Lorene Keitch

Power is in the people at CLTC

Update on the Columbia Lake Technology Centre

If you blink your eyes in Canal Flats, you just might miss another step forward by the visionaries behind the Columbia Lake Technology Center (CLTC).

Plans, projects, and people move fast at the startup company in the south end of the Valley, built on the foundations of the old CANFOR sawmill.

There are approximately 70 employees at CLTC now, between PodTech Innovation, the BID Group fabrication shop, and Columbia Lake Holdings (the real estate and project management wing of CLTC).

Welders, technicians, draftspeople, engineers and more combine their talents into a pool at CLTC.

“That collection of people, all in one place, is this huge asset. We could do just about anything,” remarks Brian Fry, one of the cofounders. He speaks high praise of the employees.

“The team of people we’ve got are constantly innovating and thinking about how to solve what’s coming next,” he says. “We’re doing things in a day that, without all these talented people, would’ve taken weeks if we had to go to outside engineering firms to get all these answers.”

PodTech has built two megapods now and are carefully looking for suitable buyers. There was a sale lined up. However, digital currency markets and a shifting relationship between China and Canada put the sale on uncertain ground. Digital currency, a big player in the megapod plan, has now “surpassed where we were when we first built the pods,” says Mr. Fry.

The company is entertaining offers from some major global brands now, Mr. Fry adds. In the meantime, PodTech found other contracts for advanced fabrication work. This is the vision Mr. Fry espouses.

“One moment we’re manufacturing pods for data centres. The next moment we could be manufacturing other types of high tech pods to house drones or do all kinds of really interesting things. We see this as a very advanced facility and continue to grow and provide services all around data collection and processing, computing, artificial intelligence … that is really the ultimate end game of where we’re headed.”

Lorri Fehr, CLTC chief executive officer, says the businesses under the CLTC banner work well together, noting that collaborative approach has carried the centre through a couple turns. A fire tore through the fabrication shop in January. But it was barely a speed bump for the ever-moving-forward company. Three days after the fire, the fabrication shop had moved into the podtech building to keep production running and orders shipped on time. All their contracts were upheld and the employees were able to keep working, Ms. Fehr reports. Space is an asset, but the collaborative attitude by the different companies working under one banner is of greater value, Ms. Fehr and Mr. Fry assert.

Fire investigators were unable to find a cause for the fire, something Ms. Fehr is grateful for.

It means there were no employees (at fault) or no business fault,” she says.

After a massive cleanup of the old facility site, all that is left now is a concrete pad, ready to rebuild.

Columbia Lake Holdings

To support current and future staffing, as well as support the broader community, the CLTC is also focusing on community infrastructure development. They bought the old high school building, with some plans for the venue.

“We’re renovating it into a multi-use space, sort of a community hub,” describes Ms. Fehr.

They are adding in a restaurant, and have built four individual suites. The single suites could be for employees at CLTC or perhaps vacation rental units, Ms. Fehr speculates.

“We’re trying to meet the needs. Housing, or even vacation rentals here, are pretty much impossible, so we’re trying to increase that.”

The building includes a workout gym and events centre. There are other retail spaces available and Ms. Fehr says there has been interest from businesses such as real estate, canoe rentals, and physiotherapy. Ms. Fehr explains that adding infrastructure to the community was always part of the plan for the owners of CLTC, as it helps support community, is an attractant for business investors, and adds to the appeal for people wanting to move to the area.

The company has bought and built houses in the village for staff. CLTC also bought a ranch as part of land holdings. There are no set plans yet but lots of ideas for what to do there some day.

CLTC is looking for resumes for possible upcoming job positions, as well as the ideal candidate to run the coffee shop or other business enterprises.

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