CEI office

The Creative Enterprise Initiative Office on Erb St. in Waterloo. (CEI)

Roger Farwell, the new man on top at the publicly-funded Creative Enterprise Initiative (CEI) says his embattled organization has made "great strides" but has yet to accomplish its goal. 

The acting CEO takes the helm of an organization caught in a storm of controversy after Heather Sinclair, the former CEO, was sacked on Monday and a full-scale review of the organization's mandate was ordered by the board of directors. 

"The ultimate goal is to make sure that talent that we need to drive economic prosperity lands here and stays here," Farwell told host Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Thursday. 

"This is a tool, an asset that the creative community was begging for," he said. "It's there and available for use at no cost to many organizations to promote themselves to do things they couldn't afford to do themselves."

Promoting local arts and culture

Created in 2011, the municipally-funded CEI was designed to attract the type of people to Waterloo Region that planners envisioned could help usher in the community's transition from a manufacturing centre into a technology hub by promoting the local arts and culture scene.

The idea was that by showcasing the local arts and culture through its flagship website, grandsocial.ca, CEI could attract top talent to the region, build a new economy and set the table for future economic prosperity. 

In the three years since its inception, CEI claims that it has "affected over $6 million in net new investment in the creative sector," but the organizations seems to have little to show in terms of the popularity of its website, grandsocial.ca. 

Farwell said grandsocial.ca has 1,700 followers on Twitter and 1,000 likes on Facebook, but when he was asked about how many page views grandsocial.ca generates, Farwell was vague, saying only that "the number is climbing." 

"We're happy with the results"

"We're very happy with the results we're seeing right now," he said. "We intend to this track and increase year-over-year as we continue to weld the whole notion of Creative Enterprise into the mentality of Waterloo Region." 

Farwell admitted that further work needs to be done in terms of informing people about the identity and role of his organization in the community. 

"We're going to spend some time on communications and bringing some clarity about the role and purpose we're talking about now and what's been accomplished," he said. 

Farwell said looking forward, it's important that the public not lose sight of why the heavily taxpayer-subsidized CEI should continue its work. 

"We know we're morphing from one economy to another. We're identified, Waterloo Region, along with Guelph and only Toronto and Ottawa as holding the promise to build another economy and drive it," he said. 

"So the choice is simply this, we either let the wind blow us where it takes us or we determine where we want to go and that's what CEI is all about."