CATA and Smart Toronto to merge

A merger between the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Smart Toronto Technology Alliance will result in a broader reach for the city-based association,

according to executives.

As part of the restructuring, Smart Toronto Technology Alliance president Cindy Pearson will become a CATA executive director based in Toronto. Three Smart Toronto staff members were laid off in the process. All Smart Toronto Technology Alliance members in good standing will be immediately grandfathered into CATA programs, through they will face a small increase when they renew next year, Pearson said. The merger will bring CATA’s total membership to about 700 organizations.

Both CATA and Smart Toronto are focused on helping members with business development activities in the Canadian technology centre. While CATA is best known for its lobbying efforts and “”red book”” policy recommendations, Smart Toronto has concentrated on the development of a city-specific technology cluster of new media organizations through educational programs and breakfast seminars.

Barry Gander, CATA’s executive director, said the relationship with Smart Toronto developed last November when the two organizations signed a formal agreement to work on some joint events. CATA had already been working on a strategy to add more regional coverage through its Tech Action Town Hall program where it hosted discussions across the country.

“”From a public policy perspective, on a national level, I think we bring a nice and strong arrowhead,”” he said.

Pearson said the merger would allow Smart Toronto to wind down its Innovation Lab in favour of access to CATA’s electronic marketing and product awareness showcase, which will be launched next month. CATA members, in turn, will gain entry to Smart Toronto’s regional programs and services.

“”Many tech companies across Canada, when they’re looking to broaden their horizons, look to Toronto as the next place to do business,”” she said.

Though associations like the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) have admitted to some membership decline in the wake of the industry’s woes, Gander said programs like Tech Action Town Hall have attracted both large- and medium-sized companies.

Earlier this year CATA merged with the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, while Smart Toronto merged with the Liberty Village Technology Alliance in 2002. A few years ago, ITAC merged with the Strategic Microelectronics Consortium. The Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), on the other hand, which represents 160,000 technical and IT professionals across the country, has largely avoided mergers.

“”We’re non-vendor for one thing, and the other organizations have been very member-specific,”” said Mylene Sayo, CIPS’ public relations manager. “”There hasn’t been a need for anything like that.””

Gander said he believes there is still room for more regional associations.

“”We make it a point to work always with the municipal or local organizations — it just can’t happen otherwise,”” he said. “”It’s not our role to displace them.””

The first fruits of the merger will come next month when CATA and Smart Toronto present a Growth Capital Workshop for women entrepreneurs, Gander said.

Smart Toronto will keep its name after the merger but would identify itself as a division of CATA, Pearson added.

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