Key performer indicators will measure success of City’s investment in Sandbox

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Invest Barrie would deploy key performance indicators to measure the success of the City’s investment in the Sandbox Entrepreneurship Centre, according to the staff report to general committee.
Staff would inform council yearly on the benefits of the investment, and would also produce a three-year assessment on the cumulative benefits of the project, according to the staff report prepared by Amanda Kelly, senior business innovation and entrepreneurship officer.
The indicators were developed jointly by City staff and representatives of Sandbox, states the report. They are structured in three objectives, each with specific goals. They are:
• Objective one: Generate activity and investment in the downtown to support growth and intensification of a dynamic creative hub.
Specifics of the goal include number of annual visitors and participating companies; degree of participation with downtown groups, including Georgian College and the BIA; supporting testimonials; impact of the centre on Maple Street (second floor of the bus terminal) in terms of pedestrian traffic, security incidents, and investments in nearly properties.
• Objective two: Raise visibility and profile of Barrie as a desirable location for startup companies and as a centre for innovation.
The measures of this goal include the number of national, international, and provincial partnerships created, yearly; the number of companies participating that aren’t based in Barrie; referrals to “ecosystem partners” such as Georgian College Research & Innovation, Lakehead University, National Research Council, Ontario Centres of Excellence; social media metrics.
• Objective three: Engage with existing businesses to support growth through the accelerated adoption of innovative technologies and business processes, peer-to-peer mentoring, and creation of collaboration opportunities with startups, scaleups and strategic programs with post-secondary partners. 
Measures are numbers of Sandbox members which are existing members; number of existing companies and number of their employees, engaged with Sandbox curriculum and programs. The indicators, reads the report, were adopted by Sandbox in February.
Back on Oct. 23, 2017, council adopted a motion calling for $500,000 in capital contributions be made to the centre, to be released in two phases. Staff worked with Sandbox representatives to create an operating entity and governance structure, which would include representation from the City.
After Sandbox raised $100,000 from the private sector last October, the City released the initial contribution of $300,000. When the centre passed its goal of raising $300,000 from the private sector, the City’s final $200,000 was released.
“As a means of protecting taxpayers and ensuring a return on investment made by the City in the form of free rent, taxes, utilities, maintenance and insurance in a publicly owned prime waterfront location (second floor of transit terminal), the Sandbox Entrepreneurship Centre organizing entity be required to sign a three-year lease for the premises and after the three-year lease period, the benefit to the community be assessed” in a report to general committee and council, and that “approval be required prior to any renewal or new lease agreement,” reads the report.
The centre officially opened on April 8. It is, according to the staff report, “well positioned for growth, with strong governance in place and industry-leading knowledge and expertise at the Board, Advisory, and management levels.
“Collectively, these groups are harnessing best practices from entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems provincially and nationally, and pursuing opportunities to expand their programming with an approach and curricula that are unique in Canada.”
Click here to read the full report.

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