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Bringing Rossland's business culture to the forefront: Business centre concept brewing for BMO

Old BMO building in the snow - Andrew Zwicker photo

When you think about the culture of Rossland you probably pull up the first two unmistakable pieces of the puzzle: a strong outdoor sporting culture and an impressive and continually growing arts scene. A more recent development, spearheaded by the Economic Development Task Force as part of the Strategic Sustainability Commission, has been sparked by the sale and refurbishment of the old Bank of Montreal Building by Fletcher Quince.

While still in the early concept stages, the requisite stars seem to be aligning nicely for a project that hopes to bring Rossland’s less-well known business culture to the forefront. Indeed, the hope is that a new business centre on the top floor of the BMO building might lead the charge out of the basements and guest rooms of the many small businesses in Rossland as well as attract new business folk to town.
Having studied the idea of nomad entrepreneurs and surveyed roughly thirty locals who fall into that category, one of the task force’s first recommendations was the idea of a business centre that could facilitate the attraction of additional entrepreneurs to the Mountain Kingdom.
“One of the ideas that made sense for me even beyond the nomads was to have a business centre in town,” explained Jim Firstbrook of the Economic Development Task Force. “The overarching vision is to be a place that offers whatever business services are in demand by people in Rossland or even visitors to Rossland. The big goal is to create a better business culture in Rossland and promote business in general as a concept.”
With no obvious location at hand or immediate sources of funding available, the idea was initially placed as a lower, long term priority. However, Fletcher Quince’s purchase of the old BMO building in December of 2009 and a chance encounter with Firstbrook soon changed all that.
“I met Fletcher one day,” said Firstbrok, “and he showed me the space and mentioned he was talking about renting some office space. He had been very generous with his terms of the art gallery downstairs so we had a discussion around that and we figured we could open the business centre here under pretty reasonable terms. The task force, being who we are, like being opportunistic in that way--so we jumped on it and we’re developing the idea to the point where we hope we can actually do it.”
The third floor space, which encompasses roughly 3,00 square feet--1,000 of which is currently taken up by the foyer and Quince’s own offices--was at one time two bank executive suites and a series of four central offices. One suite has already been transferred for Quince’s office space. The south end of the building, however, could offer up to 2,000 feet of business centre space, including four 200 square foot offices, a large drop in space or conference room along with a kitchenette, two bathrooms and a meeting room.
There are several options currently being researched for how the space might work.
The first option would be a straight office rental. Prices and options are still in the concept stage, but the first thought is that one of the 200 square foot offices with large windows and an impressive view of Mt. Roberts and Red would rent for roughly $350/month.
A second option would be similar to the first but designed as a shared space for two or three people that don’t necessarily need an office full time but could use a space to escape to if the café cum boardroom setup is no longer working for them or if working from home has simply become too hectic.
In that scenario, a shared space in one of the offices could go for around the $200 mark.
Taking another step into the more casual need for office space a third setup could be sold on a drop in or package basis whereby one of the spaces could be set up for the entrepreneur who only needs an office or meeting space infrequently or perhaps the visitor in town who needs a few hours in a quiet space to get some work done.
All of these options remain in the concept stage, but by all signs thus far the response has been very positive.
Over the past week, two tours of the space have already been run for potential occupants with a high level of excitement and interest in the project. A self-guided tour through the space has also been set up. The tour runs through the various potential options and set ups and asks participants to fill out some mini-questionnaires as part of the ongoing market research. That research is where the project stands currently as the task force works to figure out exactly what services people would like and what they would be willing to pay for them as a full fledged business plan is put together.
“I suspect it happens all the time that people are here on vacation and are skiing, or biking and walking around town and think “What a great little town,” and it’s not obvious from the visitors perspective that it is actually possible to live, work and make a living in Rossland.”
This is where having a business centre such as the one planned could push the business culture in town to a higher level just as the opening of the new Rouge Gallery on the lower floor has and is presently doing for the arts scene.
Asked if he has any immediate plans to change the name of the building, Quince laughed, noting that he’d have a century’s worth of branding to combat if that were the case. To that extent perhaps the current BMO moniker could be reworked and may already fit the bill; Basement-dwellers Moving Out? Building More Opportunity? Beautiful Mountain Office anyone?
If you’re interested in touring the space or learning more about the possibilities Firstbrook and the task force would like to hear from you. Firstbrook can be reached via e-mail at