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Idea for deep-sea museum floated at economic development meeting

Nanaimo could soon have a new interactive deep-sea museum attracting tourists.

The idea was revealed at the Economic Development Corporation’s annual general meeting last week.

Terry Knight, co-founder of Inuktun Services who now works with Seamor Marine, presented the idea he developed with his friend Phil Nuytten, owner of Nuytco Research out of North Vancouver, which develops and manufactures submersible craft.

Knight, who calls the museum the Deep Discover Centre, said the discussions are in their preliminary stages, but he and Nuytten talked about the idea for several years – to create an interactive museum on Nanaimo’s waterfront showcasing B.C.’s contributions to submersible marine technology development.

“Few people in British Columbia appreciate what sub-sea companies here have contributed to the industry,” Knight said. “It really is huge.”

Nuytten, who invented a rotary joint that revolutionized diving systems through the Exosuit, often called the Newt Suit, an underwater hard-shell diving suit that allows divers to work for hours at depths of more than 300 metres, would contribute artifacts from a number of B.C. companies.

“Part of the process moving forward is looking at what sites are most appropriate,” said Sasha Angus, CEO of economic development. “These projects are large in nature so they can take upwards of a year or two, but as soon as we have some of the initial proposals in hand we want to reach out to all of our partners, all of the other organizations that we do business with, to help say how we’re going to move it down the field.”

Upcoming and completed projects were also presented at the meeting along with results of surveys conducted on the region’s economic sectors, such as high-tech and tourism.

Business retention was a strong focus last year. From that came the Divers Lake Innovation and Technology Park under construction at the end of Kenworth Road that will be the new home for robotics manufacturer Inuktun Services, which will be joined at the site by other technology firms.

Inuktun planned to move to the Lower Mainland for better access to clients and shipping until Nanaimo Airport and FedEx created a local air terminal to cut two days off shipping delays from the Island.

Through 2014, the corporation will continue working to help germinate startup businesses by creating coworking spaces, such as Square One, in partnership with Innovation Island. The space is slated to open in June.

The corporation is slowly moving toward independence from municipal funding, partly through start-up operations like Square One, which will pay for itself, but Angus points out there are overall economic benefits from attracting and holding companies in Nanaimo.

“Our return on investment sometimes is a little different from return on investment in the private sector,” Angus said. “Our interest is to grow more companies and have more employment in the region, so we do put a lot of effort into that. We don’t take royalties on those sort of things traditionally, but it’s in our interest that we have that space and that companies continue to grow and provide employment in the community.”

The corporation receives revenue from the Nanaimo tourism guide and other services it provides.

To see survey results and statistics presented at the annual general meeting, please visit the corporation’s website at www.investnanaimo.com.

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