Opportunities to grow and innovate await the Toronto high-tech community under the roof of the newly-formed Smart Toronto Technology Alliance, the advocacy group announced Wednesday.

Smart Toronto, an organization working to advance the

interests of the technology sector within the Greater Toronto Area, said it would merge with the Liberty Village New Media Center, a resource center for new media companies in Toronto.

Smart Toronto was one of the LVNMC’s sponsors and authored the business plan that allowed the center to open in the spring of last year. The merger of the two well-matched organizations made perfect sense, says STTA president Cindy Pearson.

The merger shouldn’t impact staff and membership of either organization negatively, Pearson says. The STTA will retain staff of both associations.

“”When we took a look at the opportunity we felt that by coming together we were a much stronger organization that could better serve the technology community in the GTA,”” she says.

The Liberty Village New Media Center’s board members will remain intact as an advisory board for the STTA digital media sector program and focus their efforts on initiatives targeting the digital media economy and businesses in that area, says LVNMC’s board chairman Bruce Graham.

Plans for amalgamation were beginning to percolate earlier in 2002, Pearson says, and became clearly defined in the summer months when she joined Smart Toronto. At joining, she received a mandate to investigate and then develop an amalgamation plan.

The LVNMC began looking at the merger as an option since one of its goals upon formation was becoming a self sustaining organization beyond the three-year funding it was provided by the Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, Graham says.

We found that’s not easy for a small organization to do,”” he says, “”especially after the recent shake out in the industry.””

The new organization plans to host a series of programs in the coming months including peer groups, entrepreneur coaching programs and monthly breakfast and lunch-and-learn series, Pearson says. It also plans to create a showcase where entrepreneurs can come in and exhibit their applications. A technical lab and a digital media incubator will assist businesses to develop and commercialize new digital media technology, Graham says.

“”We want to bring together commercialization of technology along with hardware and software providers, so that application development of can occur on site,”” he says.

The STTA hopes that the escalated amount of expertise found in the new association will foster an atmosphere of even higher innovation and more targeted programs meant to provide member companies opportunities to gain new business and continue on the path of success, Pearson says.

“”I think now more than ever, with the economic situation that we’re in, we need to as an association as much as possible bring peers together for that business-to-business opportunity,”” she says.

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