the home of innovation


Remember the vision statement in the Town of Aurora’s almighty strategic plan?

The second word of which is “innovative”.

Our former CAO emphasised that this strategic plan would not sit on a shelf but be a living document.  In May of 2015 a report card was produced to communicate the status of action items in the plan.

Listed under short-term and ongoing initiatives on page 9 we see:



It’s hard to know if this action is on target or not as I can find no evidence of any Aurora Innovation Centre Business Plan every being presented to council in 2015.

There is however record of a presentation to Council back in October 22nd, 2013.  The agenda from the town’s Economic Development committee the following week includes a copy of the joint presentation given by the town’s Manager of Long Range and Strategic Planning, as well as the Region’s Manager, Strategic Economic Initiatives.

The recommendation from the Economic Development committee was THAT Council give consideration to the Aurora Innovation Centre and how it fits within the overall vision and strategic objectives for the downtown core andLibrary Square.

The Banner ran an article outlining if the project proceeds as planned, a fab lab could open its doors in mid-2014.

That never happened.

And while “on target” gets pencilled into a column here in Aurora Newmarket is actually realising their plan ramping up NewMakeit

From their twitter feed not only has their crew of volunteers secured a home for their new makerspace and renovated it, they’ve loaded equipment like laser cutters and are even building their own furniture.

Newmarket is also not waiting around for the incumbent oligopoly Telephone and Cable companies to deploy gigabit broadband instead they are proactively taking matters into its own hands as Ron Pickett explores in this October 2014 piece for Ottawa Life

As Vice President of the Canadian Telecommunications Consultant’s Association, and a University Instructor teaching business innovation strategy at Georgian College Pickett  believes:

In the 21st century economy, innovation leadership is necessary for economic leadership.

Pickett who also runs a Newmarket consulting firm specialising in business innovation, and technology strategy consulting has reached the conclusion that

Newmarket needs to diversify its economy and attract knowledge workers. Otherwise, it will remain a bedroom community with its residents stuck in GTA gridlock. The broadband gigabit city initiative is a necessary step in achieving this.

Where Newmarket is managing significant change to diversify its economy and attract knowledge workers Aurora’s entire approach is summed up as an action item on page 11 of its report card here:


It’s not just Newmarket either, York region is recognised as 4th out of 7 of Canada’s largest tech hubs in this 2014 Globe&Mail piece.

In this article the President and CEO of Real Matters, a private, 230-person firm with revenue of $85-million is in the financial services software business identifies why his company is located in Markham.   Markham appeared to have the greatest depth – not simply in terms of a developer pool, but a certain kind of developer.

The president was born and raised in Aurora, Ont.

Earlier this month the Banner ran the headline Aurora inventor braves Dragons’ Den for second time.  Yet when you read the article you learn that the Aurora inventor’s business Spark Innovations is also not based not in Aurora but in King.

King, the same municipality Aurora lost auto parts giant Magna to.  Magna just recently won a major contract with BMW announced expectations that revenues generated by its assembly business in Europe will more than double by 2018.

Back in 2012 The Region of York developed Innovate York: Guide for York Region Manufacturers as a result of discussions with manufacturers.  The intent is to enable the parties to build their capacity, raise their competitiveness and increase productivity and profit.

So where is the evidence that Aurora is even in this loop?

Back in this 2012 post I was concerned that the Town wasn’t matching tactics to strategy.

To believe that as of midway through 2015 the town was “on target” is as insulting as our Mayor’s empty tweets that we are “the home of” innovation.

Fostering innovation involves identifying problems that matter by systematically exploring alternatives and delivering elegant solutions.  As a town I have seen no evidence that Aurora has done either.  Have you? Can you cite 5 examples?

In a 2014 Forbes piece Martin Zwilling explains how real innovators start by questioning the world order rather than conforming to it. They begin by confronting the forces holding everyone back, rather than living with it.

Overall, what is different about these innovators is their mental model of romanticism in vision and realism in execution. They expect challenges, and when problems do arise, they are not surprised or let down or disappointed. They face them head on, handle them and move on. Most of the rest of us are the reverse; realistic about the vision and romantic about execution.

In the words of the late Steve Jobs:

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

As a town that is way too content in conforming to the world around it, Aurora continues to distinguish itself as the latter.  A price we’re paying for a decade of electing those to leadership positions that fail to tackle challenges head on.  Diluting down  an “exceptional quality of life for all” to little more than a bedroom community with its residents stuck in GTA gridlock.



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