Saturday, April 08, 2006
Going from good to great
Region's charities and public institutions encouraged to take risks and remain innovative
BRENT DAVIS, RECORD STAFF
Waterloo Region's non-profit groups and public institutions must continue to take risks if the community is going to move "from good to great," a local business leader said yesterday.
Addressing the annual Leadership Waterloo Region breakfast, Tim Jackson said the region's business community has international prominence thanks in part to its innovative, risk-taking attitude.
It's up to those in the business world to continue to foster this spirit among local charities and institutions and offer them support, he said.
"We have leaders in those institutions who are the best in the world," said Jackson, a co-owner of Waterloo-based venture capital firm Tech Capital Partners.
"They are people who have the same characteristics as our business leaders. They are ready to take risks, they are ready to take challenges," he said.
Jackson's experience spans both the private and public sectors. He has volunteered with several community organizations including the Waterloo Public Library, the University of Waterloo, the Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Waterloo Regional Children's Museum.
Historically, this area has exhibited a spirit of independence when it comes to the ways places do business, Jackson said.
Canada's first life insurance company, a local firm, adopted the practice of deriving capital from its policy holders, as opposed to shareholders. Years later, the University of Waterloo would buck the status quo by introducing the concept of co-operative education.
The university's unique hands-off approach when it comes to the ownership of intellectual property has helped attract commercially oriented researchers, Jackson said. Those scientists, in turn, have made Waterloo an appropriate location for innovations like the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Although Jackson said dealing with multiple layers of government can be a frustrating process from time to time, he praised local politicians for their bold decision to invest in the regional airport, acting on the belief that "if we build it, they will come."
More recently, Jackson said Waterloo city council has thrown its support behind new technologies that will revolutionize the way library services are offered.
"Council has bought into the notion that Waterloo, through its public infrastructure, must be an extremely progressive community."
And charities are recognizing that they, too, can reap the rewards, if they're prepared to go out on a limb.
Several years ago, the Food Bank of Waterloo Region approached the Trillium Foundation proposing a pilot project aimed at reclaiming some of the excess food produced by local manufacturers that would otherwise be destined for landfills or pig farms.
The foundation provided funding for three years. Today, the project has netted 3.6 million kilograms of food and will soon be expanded across Ontario.
"There cannot be a culture where people are scared to make a decision and people are scared to react," Jackson said.
Record publisher J. Fred Kuntz was master of ceremonies for the breakfast event, held at Bingemans. Formed in 2000, Leadership Waterloo Region offers courses aimed at educating and training emerging leaders in the community.