Chad Shipmaker’s story is a fascinating exploration of the outsized impact remote working can have on innovation and creativity in small towns. This is a positive take on what happens when you apply big idea thinking and practical problem solving to solutions that work in these small-town contexts. And while there may not be the talent pool and big money you get in a Silicon Valley, Chad says connected, authentic community connection provides opportunities you just can’t get in these larger places.
- Salmon Arm Economic Development Society
- Salmon Arm: The ultimate water town with a fishy first name
- Salmon Arm Innovation Centre
- Cornell University
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Duke University Fuqua School of Business
- UNC Graduate Certificate in International Peace & Conflict Resolution
- United Nations World Food Programme
- The Howard G. Buffett Foundation
- Rotary Peace Fellowship
- Shuswap Pie Company
Small Town Genie-us
Rob Brodnick: Welcome to the Positive Turbulence Podcast, Stories From The Periphery here, we journey to the edge to talk to turbulators about their experiences creating positive change. Hi, I’m Rob Rodnick.
Karyn Zuidinga: And I’m Karyn Zuidinga by sharing these stories, these perspectives on innovation, creativity, leadership, and change we hope to generate some positive turbulence for you. Thank you for joining us.
Rob Brodnick: Before the pandemic, we spoke to futurist Joe Tankersley. He spoke to him the trend he was seeing in North America of people, aided by the ability to work remotely and in search of a better quality of life, moving to small towns. As a kind of bookend to that episode we’re going to explore what that looks like on the ground with Chad Shipmaker.
Karyn Zuidinga: Chad has had a fascinating career in international development, including stints with the UN world food program and the Howard Buffet and Gates Foundations. But when he was offered the opportunity to work remotely and live anywhere in the world, he and his wife, along with their two small children, decided to move to Salmon Arm British Columbia, where Chad was born and raised. It’s a town of about 20,000 people, about five hours drive, through the mountains, to Vancouver or Calgary.
Rob Brodnick: Chad’s story is a fascinating exploration of the outsized impact remote working can have on innovation and creativity in these smaller places. In Chad’s case has been able to apply the combination of big idea, thinking with practical problem solving, to create effective, right-sized solutions that work in his context.
Karyn Zuidinga: While Chad’s story is unique, his experience isn’t. There are towns like Salmon Arm all over North America. And there are smart, creative, talented people who are looking for an alternative to the high cost and high stress of city living. With remote working an increasingly viable option for an even wider range of workers, in Chad’s story we get a glimpse into the future that Joe predicted.
Sponsor Message: The Positive Turbulence Podcast is brought to you by AMI, an innovation learning community that is celebrating 40 years of supporting innovation and creativity for organizations and individuals. Learn more at aminnovation.org.
Also we’d like to thank Mac Avenue music group as a contributing sponsor. To hear our theme song, Late Night Sunrise and other great music, visit MackAvenue.com.
Chad Shipmaker: I really liked your Disney Imagineer
Karyn Zuidinga: Oh yeah, Joe!
Chad Shipmaker: It’s just the coolest thing ever.
Karyn Zuidinga: Joe’s got a lot to say that really pertains to small towns. His prediction that people are going to be moving to small towns has proven itself out. Like we’ve recorded that before. COVID…
Chad Shipmaker: But it was happening before COVID too.
Rob Brodnick: The switch has flipped in California for sure. Where, the Bay area, all of the little towns that make up the Bay area has been such a magnet. Starting in March, the whole thing, poles on a magnet, it just flipped directions. And right now demand for where I live, up in a Sierra Nevada, is incredible. People are leaving the city in droves. The city could use it because it was just so oversubscribed in terms of costs and rent and the deconstruction of the social classes necessary to run a complex environment. Teachers and artists and great chefs were forced to leave because all the 22 year old billionaires were buying their buildings and stuff.
Chad Shipmaker: Through which of my hats are you reaching out right now?
Karyn Zuidinga: And that’s a really good, great place to start. I think, on the number of hats that you wear.
Chad Shipmaker: I have several hats.
Karyn Zuidinga: Give us a little overview Chad about what you do, who you do it for and how this all ties into economic development and innovation in Salmon Arm in general.
Chad Shipmaker: My core hat right now is as a, Principal, for Valid Manufacturing, which is an engineering and advanced manufacturing firm in Salmon Arm British Columbia. We have an engineering team of approximately 40 individuals and about a hundred thousand square feet of production space. Very active in a diverse set of industries, including electrical infrastructure, vehicle controls, large truck suspension controls, slide-out systems, digital dashboards, infotainment. We have an engineering team, with mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, electronics guys.
We’re theoretically sector agnostic, because as long as your solution needs those skillsets, we can, tackle the product. The founder and owner has a strong track record of just going out and recruiting talent if he doesn’t have it on staff already and he wants to do something. That’s led us in a couple of pretty interesting directions.
Primary role would be Valid Manufacturing. I am a founding member of a couple of emerging cannabis companies, including, an extraction facility and a, cultivation facility.
And I’m a volunteer board member for the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society. Which has allowed me to get involved in a number of different community projects to support economic development and different things for the community.
And then my relationship with Cornell university in, upstate New York, in Ithaca, I was a visiting fellow there when I left the Gates Foundation.
I am still active in a project that is looking at building the evidence base to really understand what truly works for interventions to end global hunger. That’s exciting that the research actually will culminate in a special journal issue in Nature.
Rob Brodnick: That’s so cool!
Chad Shipmaker: Those are some of the things I’m doing now, professionally and volunteer wise.
Rob Brodnick: How’d you get the Gates connection how’d you end up in one of their programs and what were some of the things you did while you were there? That sounds interesting.
Chad Shipmaker: A fascinating organization. They do a, an enormous amount of good in the world. That was the culmination of an interesting series of events. I grew up in a small town in Salmon Arm BC and I was a rotary youth exchange student. I lived in Malaysia for a year. And had the most challenging and, the most personal growth in one year I could have ever imagined. Through a strange series of events, I ended up, spending a bunch of my twenties in West Africa.
I did inter-agency aid coordination at the end with the United Nations system and learned a lot there. Fast forward a few years, I was fortunate again I was a Rotary Peace Fellow. I was funded to do a master’s degree at Duke University in North Carolina. So I have a Master’s in International Policy and the Graduate Certificate in International Peace and Conflict Resolution through the University of North Carolina.
That was an opportunity to reenter the international space at a really interesting level. My thesis and my research work was on responding to the global food price crisis. This is back 2008, 2009, and I very quickly, transitioned into working for the United Nations World Food Programme, which is the largest, humanitarian organization fighting hunger worldwide.
My academic work was responding to the food price crisis and my professional work was responding to the food price crisis. So I was, a little bit of right place, right time and, just fascinating opportunities.
[00:07:10] Back to juggling many hats, my wife and I had a newborn, I was working effectively full time for the UN and I was doing, graduate school all at the same time. I spent a few years with, the World Food Programmme and, I transitioned over a few years into, global philanthropy.
I ran the food and agriculture programs for the Howard Buffet Foundation. Food security and agriculture is one of their main focuses. I got to transition from food security relief topics into more production, agriculture, conservation agriculture, and looking at advocacy around, promoting the adoption of things like cover crops, no til farming, nutrient management planning. And, I don’t even remember exactly how, but I transitioned from there to Gates, and worked as a consultant, to their agriculture, nutrition policy and advocacy team. I’ve been very fortunate to have, had all of those different perspectives in sequence.
Rob Brodnick: It’s fascinating to me that when you’re younger or making a big change, you think control is the way to get to the future. We’ve got to focus, knuckle down, bear down, work hard .
It’s almost sounds that Chad for you, the opposite has been true in certain cases where, I’m just going to pick the oars up and I’m going to see where this boat’s going to go. Different kinds of opportunity come with that change in mindset.
Chad Shipmaker: Absolutely. I’m not going to say I had a plan. I certainly did not. I certainly did not take a conventional route. And I will say that, especially when I was working at some of these organizations, I would often get approached by people much younger who were starting up the career path and, they ask like, how do you get to where you are?
[00:08:55]When I was coming out International Development as an industry or as a profession, I don’t think it was very well known that this could be a career path. Fast forward 10, 15, 20 years and there’s tons of young people studying International Development.
Rob Brodnick: Right. Yeah.
Chad Shipmaker: In Washington, DC, every summer it gets flooded with interns. People looking for experience with international organizations. But the problem is there’s 5,000 of them, and they’re all doing the same thing. And so my advice generally was if you want to work in internationally, go international. Go to someplace no one else wants to work. And there you have the opportunity to stand out and opportunities will present itself. If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, it’s much more challenging to stand out from the noise and from everyone else.
Karyn Zuidinga: I see the link to Salmon Arm. You’re born and raised there. For people who don’t know where Salmon Arm British Columbia is its along the Highway One, kind of halfway between Vancouver and Calgary.
Chad Shipmaker: Almost exactly halfway.
Karyn Zuidinga: If you’re driving to Calgary, it’s a great place to stop for lunch and just, I have to put a plug in for the pie, the Shuswap Pie Company, like that is transformative pie. It is such good pie.
Chad Shipmaker: The Shuswap Pie Company is a Salmon Arm institution. If you’re coming through you better stop and have some pie.
Karyn Zuidinga: I’m hearing, international development time in Malaysia time in Africa, UN World Food Programme, Gates Foundation… a lot of public policy stuff, a lot of food security stuff. How does a nice boy with international development and food security in his background wind up working for an engineering firm? How did you get from I’m going to change the world and make, food security, a thing to not only working for an engineering firm but also really driving forward economic development in your small town? You’re bopping around the world, you’re doing your thing, how do you get back to Salmon Arm? How do you become that positive turbulator in Salmon Arm? Because you’ve been the driving force behind a lot in Salmon Arm.
Chad Shipmaker: So first I have to say Karyn, I’ve never been accused of being a positive turbulator before, that’s a first.
Karyn Zuidinga: Welcome to the podcast. We’re all turbulators here. it’s a nice thing to say about somebody.
Chad Shipmaker: The opportunity to move back to Salmon Arm was actually a very sort of obvious moment in time. I had an opportunity to start consulting back to the UN World Food Programme. After I had done some more work in philanthropy. The headquarters for that organization is in Rome.
it’s a big institution, 12,000 employees or something. I didn’t want to live in Rome. I’ve been there many times for work. I was tired of that international scene. They were trying to get me to go to New York. I’m a kid from the Shuswap. I didn’t really want to live in Manhattan.
And the key thing here is I had two children under five, and my spouse is from a farm in rural Colorado. Neither of us were exactly hankering to the big city. Effectively the offer was you can live where you want, live remotely, and you can do the work, on your own time, as long as you meet our time zones for when you’re working.
At that point, my wife and I looked around and thought, where in the world do we want to move to? We honestly couldn’t think of anything better than Salmon Arm. And I think we’d always intended to maybe move back when the kids were older, and give them a sense of place and home. And instead we did it when they were much younger. Even then I was very skeptical that I could be successful working internationally from the Shuswap.
It sounds on the surface a little bit of a bridge too far. Okay, we’ll try it. Everyone in our family and friends knew that we were just trying it. I think my wife and I strongly suspected it was temporary and we’d move again because that was our track record. We just moved every few years, somewhere on the planet.
It turned out that actually this was a durable thing and that with advances in especially telecommunications and remote working, which is now, you know, with COVID is front and center of the news. But this was happening even before COVID, it’s accelerated and it’s become much more acceptable, but at the time, even myself, I was questioning whether you could do it.
What ended up happening was I was working for the Gates Foundation based in Salmon Arm. I spent a week, a month in Seattle. I was usually somewhere else in the globe a week, a month. And then I’d work remotely a couple of weeks a month. As testimony to the founder and president of Valid Manufacturing, which is, who I’m with now, he approached me and he said, how busy are you with this Gates stuff?
So I explained my schedule. It’s but do you have any flexibility? Free time? I guess so. And he’s how about this, I’ll give you a bit of a salary in an office. And in your free time, you can learn about what we do. That was my entire job description. That was the entire pitch. That was, I was like, I fail to see the downside here.
As much as I, I think I’ve been very fortunate and very deliberate about identifying opportunities. That’s something I’ve always done. This was not necessarily the case. This was somebody else approaching me. I think the direct quote was, I’m not sure what the hell you’ll do around here, but I don’t have anyone like you. He was looking to grow and expand the company and in particular, wanting to diversify the company into different sectors. The two core sectors, that the company is in, I wasn’t even allowed to touch or look at it, it was, find new stuff to build.
Back to your question about, how does somebody with no background in manufacturing and engineering, how does that work? I approached it like I was working for a foundation. When you work, with that kind of, philanthropy, there’s a pretty sophisticated, strategy that gets implemented. You have your target problem you’re addressing. And then you’ll develop a theory of change where, if we do this, then this should happen. And then you scan the horizon to see what entities, what organizations might be a good fit to help implement that change. What I did was say, okay, this is what we’re good at. Take inventory of the skills and the expertise at the company. I spent a lot of time with the owner where, you know, the thing that stuck with me was that he said basically engineering and building stuff is easy. Really understanding the problem you’re trying to solve is the hard part. If you can really dial in what the problem is, then you can, look at addressing the solution. I think it’s probably underplaying the engineering side of things there. There’s still lots of work to be done. But, that really stuck with me. So I started looking for what are some problems that need to be addressing, and that has led us into forestry and agriculture and, several other fronts, which, is really exciting.
Karyn Zuidinga: Can you give us a story? I love that one, two, three. Understand the problem. What’s the theory of change. Where do you think you’re heading with that? Whatever you think you’re going to do, and then that scanning the periphery or the horizon for what might fit.
Chad Shipmaker: Yeah, absolutely, and I will say you can actually establish criteria when you’re assessing these things, and actually score them in between different opportunities.
As an example, and because of a lot of my background was in food and agriculture, I was pretty aware of the global challenge related to nutrient management and, phosphorus and nitrogen polluting lakes and rivers. It’s a major problem throughout the planet. The problem is if you keep putting, excessive amounts of manure on the same land base over time, the phosphorus builds up. It doesn’t go away. and your crop cycle, isn’t going to pull enough out of the soil. So your phosphorus levels just goes up and up and can cause all kinds of different environmental challenges.
I, became aware that the province was working on new agriculture waste regulations that would strengthen the monitoring around dairy farms in British Columbia. I was aware that in other applications in other jurisdictions you can use a centrifuge to, extract phosphorus from manure. If you centrifuge the manure, you can pull out, approximately half of the phosphorous. The problem being that most of the ag industry was only applying this at major dairy farms. South of the border, when you have say 5,000 cows they’d have, a $700,000 centrifuge, like a large one. Whereas the median sized dairy farm in British Columbia, it’s more like 150 cows. The idea was okay, here’s a problem. If we tailor a nutrient recovery system, a centrifuge system for BC dairy then we can look at being the tool to help address this problem and help dairy farmers meet new regulation. I effectively pitched that to the, the ag innovation foundation, which is both federally and provincially supported.
And I said, look, there’s no market for centrifuges or nutrient recovery right now at all. No one would buy one if we threw a bunch of engineering at it, but I also know that you’re working on these regulations. And if you want to invest in us, we can work towards providing a solution to a dairy farmers when that comes into play. And they were quite generous and they supported 50 cents on the dollar for us to start pursuing that. I’m pleased to report that in a couple of weeks. Our first production centrifuge is coming off the line and being installed in the Shuswap. That’s really exciting. We’ve identified a problem. We scanned the horizon and found a potential solution, found money to address it, which is obviously a very appealing and, we’re able to now deliver on a potential solution.
That’s one thing that we’ve done is we are now able to offer turnkey mechanical, phosphorus recovery, so that you have reduced algea blooms and it just, it’s a manure management tool for dairy farms.
Karyn Zuidinga: Sorry, I’m going to just, I’m going to step around the joke. That’s sitting here about manure management.
Chad Shipmaker: The informal title of the project is a little bit more crass.
Rob Brodnick: My mind is going six different directions right now. I think in terms of a method for innovation, the three step process makes great sense. What kept popping into my head as you were talking about, this was a quote, which has been attributed to a lot of different people over the years, chance favors the prepared mind. It’s actually come up in different parts of your story, Chad, and in the recent story that you were just telling, a lot of people think just being in the right place at the right time is magic. And I’ve always disagreed with that because if you’re not ready to either engage or just connect the dots around you it all passes by. And once your mind is attuned to the opportunity. Give that three step method to someone who’s either not practiced or their mind is not prepared, probably wouldn’t lead to success. And I’m getting the sense that perhaps, your awareness as you go through your life in these different situations is actually part of what the magic has been for creating these new connections.
Chad Shipmaker: Absolutely. I think part of it is that, the broader your experiences, the easier it is to connect dots that don’t necessarily seem obvious. And so that’s where I’ve been very fortunate to have had, as many diverse experiences I have had. And then with some of the roles and the institutions I’ve worked with, you get a unique opportunity to really exercise that opportunity to connect dots. And I think the one thing that was a major epiphany for me, somewhere along the way was, I think a lot of people put limitations on their own thinking and possibilities inherently and it’s not even conscious. One thing in particular with our world, everything is monetary. Everything is what is the cost of doing that? And that’s often the barrier that emerges before people are even taking action, which is pragmatic. If you’re being a sound practical person, you should look at your budget and see if that can work.
But when you’re looking at ideas about changing the world, or your community, or a company, or what have you. One of the things that I have learned is that a genuinely powerful, good idea is far more scarce than resources. Far more scarce than money. If your idea is good enough, the money is there. I got it to work for an organization that actually had a billion dollars. So if you had a billion dollar idea, there was a mechanism by which that could become true. I never implemented a billion dollar idea to be clear, but just the fact that was a possibility and you knew it was a possibility, it changes your thinking. It’s empowering and liberating, when you’re looking at oppurtunities. Now as a habit, as a default, I tend to have a much broader, perspective on what an opportunity could be. And. if it’s a good enough idea, that business case often emerges.
The one thing I would caution is a good idea by itself is absolutely worthless. You need to have usually a team of people are talented people who actually believe in the vision and have the talent to pull it off and actually execute because, I believe there’s a saying about ideas and everybody has one. The thing you have to do is not just have the idea, connect the dots. At some point you have to deliver, you have to work your butt off and actually push the idea up the hill.
Karyn Zuidinga: How do you balance the two though? On the one hand don’t limit yourself, don’t cut yourself off at the knees even before you’ve gotten past the first gate. On the other hand, there’s the, you need to activate and you need a team to bring those big ideas together. How do you navigate that? I can imagine that in Salmon Arm, there might’ve been some resistance early on to some of the big ideas.
Chad Shipmaker: The team doesn’t need to be a formal team. The first part of your question, how do you balance those two? I think one, the selection of the idea of the opportunity is pretty critical. Don’t throw good money after bad. Don’t keep something alive that should be discarded. Fail quickly. Whatever you want to call it and whatever management speak, but that’s a real thing. So that would be one. Then if you are pursuing an idea, part of the criteria for being able to execute moving forward is there enough stakeholders that believe in what you’re doing or can benefit from what you’re doing and that’s where the business case comes from, right? and where the resources end up flowing is there enough interest and demand there? I know we’re now speaking theoretically here, but if you have enough support from enough stakeholders, then frankly, any opposition is sort of irrelevant. If all of the key elements are already there, then the rest is just noise.
Sponsor Message: The positive turbulence podcast is brought to you by AMI and not-for-profit innovation learning community. Here’s Daniel Kaynor, AMI’s Executive Leader and Community Catalyst on the AMI experience.
Danielle Kaynor: As I think about the AMI experience and AMI gatherings, I feel like it’s such a unique opportunity to connect in this incredibly meaningful way. Connecting across worlds that get me inspired and connect some new dots in my brain. I don’t know what the terminology is, but different nodes light up and different vectors get activated. I start thinking about things in ways I hadn’t thought of before because of the uniqueness and diversity of the community in combination with how deeply people are willing and interested to connect.
Sponsor Message: AMI is proud to announce that we now offer virtual meetings. We pack in all the goodness of the in-person meeting in a two hour virtual convening. Find out more aminnovation.org
Karyn Zuidinga: I want to focus a little bit on, being in Salmon Arm, participating with the Economic Development Society. How we met is I walked into the Innovation Centre in Salmon Arm one day on summer vacation — after having had an excellent piece of pie — and I go in and I start a conversation and there’s these two amazing women there. They start sharing with me all the amazing innovations that are happening in and around Salmon Arm. I’m, up to that moment, thinking of Salmon Arm as a great place for lunch between one place and another. So now my whole understanding of Salmon Arm is shifting and I’m wondering what’s different about trying to drive innovation in Salmon Arm than trying to drive innovation in say San Francisco or Washington DC or New York. How does the pattern change? What kind of conversation are you having that might be different?
Chad Shipmaker: That’s a good question. We probably have a thinner talent pool, or of course we have a thinner talent pool, a San Francisco, or what have you. But there’s opportunities in that too, because you have the relationships. You mentioned the Innovation Centre. Well in a San Francisco, it’d be a lot harder to get consensus between mayor and council, the building owner, developer, ag dev society and the business community, and what have you.
Whereas Salmon Arm is just small enough that you can actually go for lunch and see them. The closeness actually is an opportunity as well. There’s also some bigger picture macro trends happening where a lot of people and a lot of talent is moving to communities like ours.
Maclean’s magazine, which is a national publication in Canada, did a big data driven analysis of what they call the best place to live in Canada. The number one place West of Ontario, I think like number four overall or something, was Salmon Arm. They looked at criteria like commute time. There’s no commute time in Salmon Arm, there’s no traffic. Prosperity. We have a number of pretty, successful companies and comparatively high paying jobs. Your income versus housing price is more attractive than a lot of places. Safety, compared to everyone else just across the country we were in, one of the top percentiles on safety, like low crime.
When you look at the things that feature into quality of life, the community has a lot going for it. And with advances in communications and, things that allowed me to move home. There was a number of people who were starting to telecommute in Salmon Arm for whatever job they had in Victoria or Toronto or Vancouver anyway. That trend it’s something that we were able to take advantage of for the Innovation Centre. A number of the offices in the coworking space are full of people who, didn’t want to work from home. They wanted to make connections in their community, but really their office is probably hundreds of miles away.
To then go back to your question to answer it more succinctly, Salmon Arm had, has some very dedicated community members who have strong relationships with one another. And, it’s an environment where you can move things faster than you would in a larger environment. And it’s easier to get support, get consensus.
if there are concerns you can address those concerns and pivot and make sure everyone’s comfortable with where you’re going. And then we happen to be a really attractive place to be. And so there’s an inherent market that you’re addressing as well.
Karyn Zuidinga: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. and I heard something as you were speaking that, because I’ve lived in a couple of small towns and I think what. What you have to be prepared for if you’re, if it’s on your mind to move to a small town, is that you really need to think about engaging with the community.
You can’t just go and be anonymous. If you want to also benefit from those connections and that fluidity and that closeness, you have to engage with that closeness. You can’t just drop in and be like, quote unquote, big man on campus. You have to. You have to now authentically engage.
Rob Brodnick: I agree. I’ve heard the saying or the quote that I moved to the big city, so I could hide from humanity. And I don’t know if that’s came out of an old book or something, but I totally get that. And it’s so much easier to hide in the crowd that it is in a group of three people, because you were there and you are front and center. So I love that Karyn.
The other thing that like, to unpack the bigger trend, where people are moving to the community a little bit more, like we’re talking to genuine talent, like people with professional degrees with, CEOs of companies. it’s the kind of, creative class that every community would welcome and want.
And, I think that, it would be easy to move to a community — Salmon Arm is 20,000 people inside the city limits. the regional center is, I think 35,000 or something like that. it’d be easy to move to a community that size and think that, this is some of the bunch of Podunk villagers who, are the farmers and loggers and what have you. And very quickly people get a sense of the level of experience and international exposure. And, there’s a lot of really capable, people from the community and people who have moved to the community. And so that’s where the closeness of the smallness is an opportunity. Because you can meet just remarkable individuals.
Karyn Zuidinga: I’m a fan. I, and it comes from a really honest place. I, like I say, I was there last summer and kind of rediscovered it and, or discovered it really for the first time, have having only ever looked at the surface and discovered all this energy and innovation below the surface. One of the little factoids that, the woman I was speaking to, shared with me when we’re having that conversation inside the Innovation Centre was that there are more tech workers per capita in your region than in the rest of the larger region of British Columbia that sit in., I was like, how does that happen?
Chad Shipmaker: I would argue that Salmon Arm has always been a little bit different.
I took some courses in the Fuqua school of business, including social entrepreneurship. And they’re talking about social entrepreneurship 10 years ago, like its this new trend and the triple bottom line. They’re talking about all these things about social ventures with an economic bent.
And I was sitting there thinking. This sounds exactly like the SalMar society, which is a society in Salmon Arm, and that’s a hundred years old. That is a nonprofit society that has been engaged in all kinds of economic activities. For years, Salmon Arm was the only community owned movie theater in the province. The idea is that nonprofit brought in our own movie theater and all of the proceeds get driven back into the community . So it’s, a social venture, following sound, business and management practices, but for the benefit of the community, not shareholders.
Karyn Zuidinga: And social ventures are so hot right now. Everybody’s talking social ventures right now. I’m hearing a lot about it. and I, look to the model of, I bet you, there are lots of other small towns that are similar.
Chad Shipmaker: And I’m not suggesting that’s totally unique to Salmon Arm. There’s lots of really positive approaches under B-Corps and social ventures and all of the proliferation of those things. But, yeah, Salmon Arm was a bit ahead of its time in some regards.
Rob Brodnick: Let me try something, Chad, if you’re open to a little thought experiment and we’ll, I’m a risk taker. If it fails, but, you had mentioned, listening to the podcast with Joe Tankersley, who’s a futurist and we had so much fun with him. So I’d like to the thought experiment is Chad, the futurist, Let me set up a scenario for you. Let’s say that current trends, trajectories lead us to situations where a vast migration to the cities reverses for an extended period of time. The small town cultures, become coveted and hot. And our patterns change. If you were to look into the future, make some predictions or projections, or perhaps even give us a recipe for innovation, not being driven out of the urban centers, not being driven out of the mega factories, but driven out of a distributed network of small towns, what would that future be like? What would its characteristics be like? Or what are some of the ingredients based on your experiences that could help create that future? I’m fascinated by what you might say next.
Chad Shipmaker: This might be, not being futurist enough, but I’d argue that a lot of that, what you just described is already here. You don’t need much imagination to see what the next step is. I don’t see a complete reversal of urbanization to innovation from rural economies and towns. Instead it is the network is the key word there, and it will be a mesh of all of these different areas working together.
One thing I do predict in this, there’s a lot of things that aren’t good about this, from a, land use planning governance standpoint, but it’s not hard to predict more and more sprawl. At some point Salmon Arm is just a suburb of Vancouver. Self- driving cars will allow me to book a lunch meeting in Vancouver. I can work on my laptop on the way down in the morning. Connectivity will become easier and easier. And I think through the COVID experience, it’s proving that digital interaction and a network of, different staff locations, it’s not just the future. For many companies is now here.
And many of the people that are, have rented offices in the Innovation Centre are, as I said, their companies are based elsewhere. There’s countless companies that are canceling building projects for administration and staff. And everyone’s just going to work from home. If you have that luxury and freedom. Then I don’t see why the trend wouldn’t continue, that people will move towards where there is a higher quality of life. If you have that disruption of place from a work perspective where you can live anywhere and there’s no professional, headwind against moving to a smaller community then I think you’ll see that trend continue. That’s in the Western context within Canada, et cetera. I can see it being quite different in other developing countries. All of the big trends suggest that urbanization is only going to continue to intensify on a global basis. Yes.
Karyn Zuidinga: Yeah. The counterbalance of that if the Shuswap becomes a bedroom community, if you will, or a suburb of Vancouver or by extension, how do you protect the specialness? The uniqueness of being in Salmon Arm? And how do you keep that, close knitness, that connection, that community, without getting, diluted. I grew up in Quebec during the, cultural revolution and the thing that was said a lot then was that Quebec being French speaking is like a sugar cube in a cup of English tea. Like it’s just gonna melt. And so how do you keep the specialness of that culture up in Salmon Arm? How do you keep it from becoming that sugar cube that would melt into that larger culture?
Chad Shipmaker: I think because I’m many generations in this community, I probably have maybe a slightly different approach. Because what ends up happening, or has happened frequently, is you’ll get people from cities that will move to Salmon Arm because they love it just the way it is. And then they’ll do everything they can to keep other people from moving there because they wanted to stay just the way it is.
It is. Whereas if you were born there and you’re from there, you can see how it’s changed so much already and how the person who’s trying to keep it just the way it is has only been there a decade or whatever. And so I actually don’t worry about that too much. I think that. There is a natural evolution there.
I think the things that you want to do are the things that anybody would want to do in any community, in any sized city, where you give opportunities for community engagement, you make sure that there is a network and a sense of community. One risk for, the Shuswap in general is it’s such an idyllic, place and summer holiday spot that you don’t want a scenario where, half the homes are unoccupied because it’s just a vacation home. Then where are the kids to go to the school and who’s going to the grocery store in January and that kind of thing. So I think that’s something that, that is a concern and you have to be conscious of. But I don’t lose any sleep about how the fabric of Salmon Arm is going to change and be less cute as it evolves. I’m actually one of the people trying to push it forward in many ways.
Karyn Zuidinga: Yeah, turbulator.
Yeah, I think it’s great. Great question, Karyn… turbulator…
Rob Brodnick: Chad, you’ve made a lot of stops along your journey. I’m sure that, there’s more stops coming that are yet unanticipated, but I imagine your current reality is focused on the company you’re with now and the place you’re with now and the people you’re working with now.
Project some of that out into the future. Where do you see, some of your current, activities and investigations going some of the outcomes you might pursue or some of the wishes that you had, if you could place a wish on the future.
Chad Shipmaker: I’m not much for wishes I’m usually too pragmatic for that,
Rob Brodnick: You’re the genie. I bet you’re the wish giver.
Chad Shipmaker: I’m really excited for the future of Valid. In my previous roles working internationally. I got exposed to all kinds of different organizations and companies and ideas where there was so much polish and so much hype that, sometimes it’s hard to understand if or what substance was there. I’ve had the extreme good fortune of landing with a firm that is all substance and almost no hype. It’s a bit of a throwback. I think that there’s some really interesting big picture trends, that, will be very positive for, regaining Canadian manufacturing. There was a big longterm trend of outsourcing everything to Asia or what have you.
With the supply chain disruption under COVID with challenges over into intellectual property rights. There is a growing desire for domestic production, domestic manufacturing, in a sense that, the actual real cost of working with a Canadian company might look a little bit higher on the surface, but the intrinsic value is there.
So with that in mind, I see an opportunity to grow and cement almost a throwback approach to a company town. Where you were able to expand and have living wages, compensated employees, who are part of the family, driving innovation, Canadian-based innovation to service Canada and the rest of the world.
That could be in many different fields and direction, but I would be surprised if we didn’t experience some really rapid growth and a lot of success, in the coming years. There’s definitely, it’s going to be some growing pains. There’s definitely some things we need to work on and then tighten up.
But I’m really excited to see what the future holds because, one thing that the founder and president is absolutely committed to is making sure that Valid is a durable, sustainable Salmon Arm, BC based company, for, past the horizon. We will not sell to a company. We will not be robbed for IP. We will, within the confines of market forces and, various pivots and reactions, and we will try to grow a innovative, community-based company. So I’m just really excited to be a part of that. And there’s just amazing talents, in that company. if you guys are coming through the Shuswap, let us know because the best way to understand what we do is to come for a tour.
Karyn Zuidinga: I’m coming back, it
Rob Brodnick: Not just for the pie, but
Karyn Zuidinga: Not just Pie, for everything else.
Chad Shipmaker: It’s it’s just so much, it’s it’s so much fun.
Karyn Zuidinga: Chad, I want to thank you for taking the time with us today. It has been an amazing conversation. The time has flown and, double thank you because I know you’re, you’re super booked today. and even, so you took the time and I really appreciate that.
Chad Shipmaker: Happy to chat any time and thank you for having me.
Rob Brodnick: turbulator. Yes,
Chad Shipmaker: I love it. I love it.
Karyn Zuidinga: Hey, lovely listeners stay tuned for this episode’s positive turbulence moment coming right up. But first a huge thank you to AMI who have nurtured us in developing this podcast is the source of so many of our guests, and of course the founder, Stan Gryskiewicz is also the author of the original book. And dare I say…the Ben Franklin of positive turbulence.
Sponsor Message: AMI is a pioneering nonprofit organization comprised of committed individuals who foster and leverage creativity and innovation in organizations in society. AMI identifies leading edge innovation shares experiences, sponsors research, and recognizes innovation and creative processes. Find out more aminnovation.org.
And thank you to Mack Avenue Music Group, our contributing sponsor for providing our podcast soundtrack Late Night Sunrise.
Rob Brodnick: And here’s our positive turbulence moment.
Chad Shipmaker: I feel, very fortunate to have the opportunity to be doing what I’m doing. When I was working most recently, especially, doing advocacy with Buffet and Gates and that kind of thing. Advocacy is incredibly effective. It’s a powerful tool, but sometimes it’s hard to measure causality and to measure, what role did I actually play there? In terms of what did I achieve? And, this experience with Valid is just so rewarding because it’s like, hey. I think we should build a centrifuge and then fast forward, hey, there’s the centrifuge. You can touch and feel it. The feedback loop is cconcrete. That is, incredibly rewarding and very exciting. I’m really, hopeful to see the results as that scales up and see what can be done there. And that’s one of eight or nine projects we’re working on right now in all kinds of different sectors.
I’m very fortunate to get to do all of this from my community and from Salmon Arm. Warren buffet has a saying about the ovarian lottery. You don’t get to choose where you’re from. You don’t get to choose who your parents are and I got to be from Salmon Arm. So I won on that front. And it was quite funny because obviously, I went to school there. There’s lots of people who didn’t leave Salmon Arm. I remember, being out on the lake and having a beverage and people saying, why would you ever go anywhere else? This is the best place in the world to live. And so I proceeded to go everywhere else that I could. And come to the same conclusion that they had 20 years ago. So in a way, the only difference between myself and them is that I just have, more data points.
There’s a lot of other places I’ve lived and could be living. And I could not have imagined in a better environment for my kids to grow up. They’re not going to be short of any opportunity. They get a safe, majestic, environmentally, beautiful place to be.
I think one thing that people who haven’t necessarily lived in a lot of other places don’t appreciate is that, like my colleagues that still work for the UN World Food Programme. They have rotations. So every few years you go to a different duty station, so you go to Kampala and then you’ll be in Khartoum. And the game is always what’s the schooling? What’s the international school. Can I get my kid in? And what are the teachers like? And you’ll pay $30,000, $40,000 American dollars or more for the luxury of getting your kid what is hopefully a mediocre education. This is where, when you look at global data and look at educational outcomes for kids from Canada, and British Columbia in particular, we’re near the top of the charts on, math and language and it’s just comes out of our tax dollars. It comes out of our GST and it comes out of our PST. I think that’s something that is under appreciated by people, in my orbit. It’s not something you think about it. You just send your kids to the neighborhood school. And in general, that neighborhood school is going to offer, a great opportunity to your kid.
Karyn Zuidinga: If you want to share a positive turbulence moment or otherwise comment on what you’re hearing, please drop us a line podcast [at] positiveturbulence.com. We welcome your thoughts.
Rob Brodnick: Be sure to tune in next episode, when we’ll be exploring the power of positive partnerships with Marsha Semmel. Marsha is a powerhouse in the museum and library space and has been a turbulator creating effective partnerships in that space for over 40 years. Now she’s written a book on it.
Karyn Zuidinga: You can head over to positive turbulence.com to find out more about us, get a transcript of this episode, get links to find out more about our guests and learn about our wonderful sponsors. Until next time, keep the turbulence positive.
Sponsors of this episode, THANK YOU!
Without our season, episode and segment sponsors, this podcast would not be possible. Many, many thanks to you all!