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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Mike Comello found this area by chance, but he stayed for the love of it. Now the founder of the Grey Bruce Technology Network (GBTN) is showing others in the tech field that they too can make the move to Grey-Bruce.

Comello always had a plan to lure his wife to life on the Sound. She was working for the University of Guelph, and for a year they lived in Fergus during the week, but after spending two maternity leaves here full-time, Owen Sound has mikecbecome the family's home. Comello, a graduate in electrical engineering from the University of Waterloo, spent  five years at General Motors in Oshawa. Now he works from his home on East Bayshore Road, taking data collection software and making it solve problems for his manufacturing clients.

When Comello wanted to meet other tech professionals in the area, especially those like him who were working from home remotely, he started with social media. Members found him either through their work in technology, or because technology was integral to accomplishing their goals.

The Network is still connected in a Facebook group, but meeting face to face in a physical space has given the GBTN both legitimacy and permanence. They have outgrown their first meet-up space in the back room of a local restaurant,  both in numbers and in the need for a "tech space" with equipment and internet. Starting this month, the Network will have a base at KP9 Interactive in downtown Owen Sound. Even if members' specific fields don't overlap, the concepts involved do, and members take the opportunity of the meet-ups to garner ideas, collaborators and even staff from the group.

After the 2016 census revealed that the population of Owen Sound had declined in the past decade, Mayor Ian Boddy announced his commitment to a city population of 30,000 by the year 2030. He formed a working group, and last October Comello participated in a workshop to bring input to that group from all areas of the local economy.

The Grey Bruce Technology Network has a role to play in the growth of the area, as Comello sees it, by showcasing the local opportunities to those currently in the tech field elsewhere and encouraging them to make the move. Enhancing the tech industry here, he says, will be achieved by a collaboration among the City, private industry and Georgian College. The Network has a vision of "destination courses" at Georgian in technologies needed in the region,  with the kind of drawing power of the marine programs. They also discussed shorter modular courses on specific tech topics which could be offered at the new community hub proposed for the former Sydenham School, targetting those who want continuing education or upgrades.

The Technology Network now has a literal "seat at the table" with the City. This month Comello was appointed to Owen Sound's Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Committee for the coming year, and is pleased to bring the voice of the tech sector to that conversation. He is also looking forward to working with Savanna Meyers and the Economic Development team at Grey County, where he sees "vision, energy and real movement".

The Network has been meeting for over a year now, and Comello says it is already "more than I could have imagined". The February meeting will be a tech showcase, and in March the group is invited to the library to look at their new 3D printer and other technology and to share their vision of the library's technology future.

"Consider that a lot of tech is generated by connecting other tech together like hardware, software, functions, subroutines, devices, etc. Then consider that tech like our phones, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Skype etc. allows us as humans to connect. So it stands that, connections make technology, technology makes connections." - from the most recent newsletter of the Grey Bruce Technology Network.

 

I caught up with Mike Comello at a local coffee shop and later through a wireless mobile communication device. The best of both worlds here in Owen Sound.

 


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