Kitchener-Waterloo

Communitech blindsided by debate to cut funding

The president of Communitech said he was surprised by the Kitchener city council debate to reduce their funding during Monday's budget meeting.

The CEO of Communitech says cutting down their funding from the city 'would hurt' them 'absolutely'

Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech (on the far right), says the city grant has allowed the company to expand, take over and refurbish old space in Waterloo region.

The president of Communitech said he was surprised by the Kitchener city council debate to reduce their funding during Monday's budget meeting. 

"The first time I heard about it was when it was actually happening," said Iain Klugman, Communitech's president, who only found out about the cutback discussion after someone emailed him about it.

"It was something we hadn't anticipated, they'd been such an incredible partner."

Communitech receives $300,000 from the City of Kitchener annually as a grant. On Monday, a motion was made during budget deliberations to decrease that amount to $200,000.

Does Communitech need city money?

Coun. Yvonne Fernandes, who put forth the motion, questioned whether Communitech needed city money.

"They're doing extremely well. They're getting increased funding," she said, noting Communitech might not need city money.

Communitech receives $300,000 from the the City of Kitchener annually as a grant. On Monday, a motion was made during budget deliberations to decrease that amount. The motion failed. (Meghan Thompson/Communitech/Facebook)

Councillor Zyg Janecki amended the motion to decrease the amount by half, to $150,000.

Both motions failed to pass.

Communitech spent $17.6 million and $21.8 million in 2016 and 2017 respectively, but Klugman maintained that the $300,000 in city money is still significant for their company.

"We are non-profit organization, and that means anytime there are cuts and reductions there are things we can't do," Klugman said on CBC's The Morning Edition.

'It would impact us absolutely'

"The money is important for a couple of reasons, for one it allows us to do a whole host of important things," he said, noting the reduction "would hurt and it would impact us absolutely."

In the past, the grant has allowed the company to expand, take over and refurbish old space in Waterloo region. 

Klugman said the money has also allowed Communitech to bring new partners and brands, like Mattel Toys and General Motors into the community that otherwise wouldn't exist in the region.

Communitech said the $300,000 from the city helps the company support new start ups and other innovators. (Amanda Grant/CBC News)

They have also used their funding to support technology innovation organizations, such as startups that don't have money to pay for programs and space.

'Charter our own destiny'

"(Communitech) is a community initiative," he said. "That is one piece in the bigger initiative - to say 'lets charter our own destiny as a community'."

Communitech is a public-private partnership, meaning it receives money from both private and public sectors. Klugman said they have a truly 50/50 partnership with both sectors.

Communitech has 14 different partners, including municipalities, federal and provincial government and local organizations.

"Not everyone is contributing at the same level, but everyone is contributing," said Klugman.

"I think part of what makes this organization work is really based on the culture of this community which is we have a problem, lets rally around this, let's all throw a little bit of money into the pot and let's fix it."

With files from Peggy Lam and Kate Bueckert

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