Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageBig data brings bright future to Canadian mill town

By Karen Graham     Jun 18, 2018 in Technology
The Village of Canal Flats, located at the southern end of Columbia Lake in British Columbia, Canada is about to transition from being a mill town into a technology hub with the addition of the Columbia Lake Technology Centre.
On June 12, the co-founders of the Columbia Lake Technology Centre announced their plans to turn the site where the Canfor sawmill once stood into a high-tech data hub and training centre.
The Canfor sawmill shut down in November 2015, putting about 75 people out of work in the small community. Then, in 2017, Brian Fehr, the chairman and managing director of the multinational forestry-sector corporation BID Group, purchased the 405 hectares (1,001 acres) site as a personal investment.
Fehr co-founded BID Group in 1983, helping to establish the company as a premier design, manufacturing, construction and project management organization. The company also moved into the creation of automated systems for the industry.
Village of Canal Flats
Expanding on the technology
Local entrepreneur Brian Fry says the success of BID's technology brought about a reduction in the number of mills needed, as well as the number of jobs. Fehr saw an opportunity to create new jobs, reports CBC Canada.
Fry was the co-owner of the Kelowna-based RackForce, Canada’s largest Enterprise Cloud Service Provider, providing its services nationally and globally. RackForce was acquired by Terago Networks for $33 million in March 2015.
Fry is also the co-founder of i4C in Trail, BC, Canada. Its mandate is the recruitment of early stage Industry 4.0-related companies that want to run their R&D, light fabrication, commercialization and/or distribution from a highly strategically located facility in North America.
Both Fry and Fehr envision seeing data centres, greenhouses to take advantage of the heat produced by the centres, training facilities, technical training programs and more. And the size of the Canal Flats property will provide plenty of space to build large computer servers to process massive amounts of data.
Fry cites the rise in automated vehicles, artificial intelligence, and digital currency as fueling the need for large banks of servers today, adding that the site has "lots of power already available and a fiber optic network that will make the centre “as connected as anywhere in the world.”
“The idea is to make it so exciting that people that wouldn’t traditionally think of a rural area as a place to go will come here,” says Fry. “They might have a long history in the technology industry but they actually need a place to go.”
Canal Flats has a rich history
Canal Flats was originally named McGillivray's Portage by David Thompson, who just happened to pass through the area in 1808. But the town's name suits it, especially when you know the history behind the name.
Lock construction for canal at Canal Flats  British Columbia  1888.
Lock construction for canal at Canal Flats, British Columbia, 1888.
British Columbia Provincial Archives digital collections image C-04285
In the 1880s, English/Austrian entrepreneur William Adolf Baillie-Grohman had a grand scheme to divert water from the upper Kootenay River into the Columbia system, lowering the level of Kootenay Lake to reclaim the 48,000-acres of rich land in the Creston area.
He figured a canal would open up a north-south navigational system from Golden to Montana, in the United States. Trouble came in the form of pressure from the Canadian Pacific Railways. They were concerned about the Columbia River crossings, while settlers in Golden feared their lands would be flooded.
Baillie-Grohman had to settle with building his shipping canal between the headwaters of the Columbia River and the upper Kootenay River in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia. And in 1898, he declared the canal was finished, and apparently, open for business.
North Star on Columbia River  in British Columbia  ca 1902.
North Star on Columbia River, in British Columbia, ca 1902.
British Columbia Provincial Archives digital collections image A-09279
Sadly, the expensive business venture was a failure because the canal was only used three times. Actually, it as worse than that.
After Baillie-Grohman got permission from the provincial government to build his canal, he didn't bother dredging or preparing the approaches to the canal and its lock, and from the get-go, things did not go well.
The end of the canal came in 1902 when the vessel North Star used the canal. It took a month to move North Star through the sloughed-in canal. Among other problems, North Star was 130 feet long, 30 feet longer than the lock.The captain of the North Star solved that problem by dynamiting the lock.
However, Baillie-Grohman can be credited with building the first store and post office in the community as well as the first steam sawmill in the valley, the start of the lumber industry that put Canal Flats on the map.
More about canal flats, Columbia Lake Technology Centre, BID Group, Data center, Internet
Latest News
Top News