Anyone know exactly where this going in Jackson?
The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 19, 2009)
You've probably never heard of Hugh Cossart Baker Jr., but a creative incubator in the works for downtown Hamilton will bring the businessman's name back to life.
The Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts has begun construction on a new space in Jackson Square that will help fledgling artists, entrepreneurs and organizations get their business ventures off the ground.
It will be named the Cossart Exchange.
Hamilton has high-tech and innovation incubators, but this will be the first aimed at the creative sector.
There are examples around the world, and Toronto has more than a dozen aimed at the arts, film, fashion and social enterprise.
Hugh Cossart Baker Jr. (1846-1931) was an entrepreneur, inventor, volunteer and community organizer who is most famous for creating the first commercial telephone exchange in the British Empire -- in Hamilton.
He also played a role in establishing the Hamilton Street Railway, Hamilton Real Estate Association and Leander Boat Club.
Jeremy Freiburger, executive director of the Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts, which redevelops and manages former industrial properties for artistic uses, says it seemed perfect to name the incubator after a successful Hamiltonian.
"His work is indicative of the kind of work happening in the creative community in Hamilton now," said Freiburger.
The 2,000-square-foot centre, now under construction on the second floor of Jackson Square, will overlook the newly renovated market and the mall's rooftop patio.
The hope is to launch in December.
The incubator will provide work stations, meeting space and staff resources to about 12 to 16 participants at a time. They will pay $150 a month and be matched with mentors who can help with financial planning, networking, strategic development and marketing.
Participants will also be expected to offer 40 hours of volunteering a year.
"The Cossart program will be about energizing people, ideas and products, and playing a role in helping them be successful," said Freiburger.
"It's really going to be dictated by what people need."
The definition of creative is always in flux, says Freiburger. It's not strictly about artistic endeavours, but can apply to ideas, events, products and new ways of doing things.
The participants will be selected by a jury, and the bottom-line criteria is that the product, idea or service must be good for the community, says Freiburger.
Jason Hofing, who started his own coffee importing and roasting business, Red Hill Coffee Trade, a year ago, is lining up to apply to the exchange.
"It's a really good, unique and creative approach to growing and designing a business," he said.
"It's a unique opportunity to do business co-operatively and collaboratively rather than doing it all alone."
Hofing, 33, is particularly looking for guidance about building his customer base and getting the word out about an alternative coffee culture and fair trade coffee.
Hofing anticipates a lot of people will be drawn to the exchange because the creative scene is growing and the ICCA and Freiburger have developed a reputation for success.
"They are very warm and welcoming, and interested and accepting of ideas. It's a perfect fit for what I'm doing."
Hamilton is crying out for an incubator for creativity, Freiburger says.
It's estimated there are about 3,000 businesses and organizations in the creative sector in Hamilton, and the industry is pegged to generate about $260 million a year.
Based on a Statistics Canada study, which found that 25 per cent of creative businesses seek incubation services in their first five years of operation, Freiburger believes about 750 enterprises in the city could use the Cossart Exchange.
A quick Facebook post generated great response from people wanting to be involved as participants, mentors and sponsors.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation has given the Cossart Exchange a $130,000, two-year grant, and Freiburger estimates the working budget for two years will be somewhere around $300,000.
"We are looking for sponsors. It's the kind of program we think the business community can see value in because it connects cultural development to economic development."
The ICCA studied creative incubators around the world, including the Hub in Halifax and the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto.
The Cossart Exchange can be reached at email@example.com
, 905-548-0111 and the website is cossartexchange.com.