local forests, local people, local decisions

Old sawmill turned high-tech centre could be the key to reviving B.C.’s small towns

VANCOUVER—The scenic village of Canal Flats at the base of the Canadian Rockies is undergoing a “brave experiment.”

It’s been a year since the remote town of 800 people in southeastern B.C. began transitioning from a forestry-dependent economy to tech and trades with the launch of the Columbia Lake Technology Center.

The innovation hub, which aims to attract technology and manufacturing businesses, is located inside the skeleton of a century-old mill — once the town’s main employer. The buildings that housed log sorters and giant saws are now home to high-tech electrical equipment and cranes for lifting shipping containers filled with hundreds of data servers.

One of the centre’s tenant companies, PodTech, manufactures transportable data centres used for cryptocurrency mining and other purposes. Another tenant is the Bid Group, which manufacturers equipment like steel conveyors for forestry companies.

The leaders of Columbia Lake say the centre proves that it’s not only possible to run a tech company in a rural area but it’s actively beneficial. By following its example, they hope, other resource-based communities will find a way to survive economic upheaval.

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IMAGE: The innovation hub, which aims to attract technology and manufacturing businesses, is located inside the skeleton of a century-old mill ? once the town’s main employer. The buildings that housed log sorters and giant saws are now home to high-tech electrical equipment and cranes for lifting shipping containers filled with hundreds of data servers.  LORRI FEHR