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Building Hi-Tech Halton

Rick Stomphorst Rick Stomphorst

Rick Stomphorst

When Ford opened its Oakville Assembly in 1953, Halton became a prime manufacturing centre in Ontario. New development quickly covered farmland as people flocked to the region for the high-paying automotive jobs the plant offered. It was a key event that helped shape the community seen today.

Now, 60 years later, a group of hi-tech entrepreneurs are fuelling a similar transition. Known as Silicon Halton, the group wants to make Halton into a world class, hi-tech community, like the famous California valley from which it takes its name.

That kind of technology-oriented community is vital for future economic growth and development, said Reema Duggal, president of the Sitaran Group and a key contributor to Silicon Halton.

"I don't think there's a single business today that can survive without the tech industry," Duggal said. "It's just becoming stronger and stronger. In any single industry we're seeing more and more reliance on the tech industry."

Founded in 2009 by Chris Herbert and Rick Stomphorst, Silicon Halton is built on the ideas of technology, community and growth. It's 850 members and 300 associated companies all have strong ties to both Halton and the technology industry.

"We walk this fine line between 'Man, is that cool!' and 'How do you make money from that?'" said Stomphorst, "because of that we generally get the leaders of tech companies that tend to gravitate to our meetings."

Meetings rotate each month at bars and restaurants around Halton. They are energized events, which Stomphorst described as "something you really just have to experience."

"I call it uber-engaging," he said. "People go there for professional reasons. They want to be together; they want to engage. One event, for example, the pub was literally turning off the lights and TVs and we were still there on a Tuesday night in Oakville."

"It's a very engaged community," Duggal added. "There's always someone pulling you in. You can expect to make one or two good connections that's still solid the next day."

Chris Herbert Chris Herbert

Chris Herbert

Meetings include four different streams of business growth, business optimization, innovation, and networking. The streams allow for the community's many and disparate segments to focus on and network within their expertise.

"We are trying to create jobs in Halton. We're not funding programs or anything, but we're trying to become an enabler, trying to facilitate education and knowledge," said Stomphorst.

According to Robert Duvall, president of RDC Networks and host of TV Cogeco's Halton Tech Today, Silicon Halton "creates an ecosystem of similar and dissimilar edges in technology."

"I use Silicon Halton to fill in the gaps that myself or other companies might need filled. You can't be everything to everybody. If there's a particular job that requires more expertise, then I'll bring one of the other members," Duvall said.

"It makes me more credible and it makes the other people a part of the larger ecosystem," he added.

The network, of course, has a vibrant online presence, primarily in a private group on LinkedIn. The group serves to document the monthly meetings, while also augmenting them with added discussion.

"We have this history of what happens. So much knowledge is shared, and we don't want to lose it."