Marotta Family Innovation Complex at Niagara College poised to make strides in agri-food industry

Dignitaries gathered for the grand opening of the Marotta Family Innovation Complex at Niagara College Tuesday. Niagara College photo

Niagara College press release – It’s the beginning of a new era for research and innovation in Niagara’s agri-food industry, with the opening of Niagara College’s latest addition to its trailblazing Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.

On Tuesday, Sept. 3/2019, federal, provincial and regional representatives, community donors and industry partners joined staff and students at Niagara College to mark the official grand opening of the new Marotta Family Innovation Complex, which will not only enhance student learning opportunities, but will support the region’s agri-food and agri-business sector.

The four-story complex is the centrepiece of a $34-million investment in the agri-food sector and includes more than 50,000 square feet of newly constructed space – including three research areas that expand the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre (CFWI IC). New beverages will be prototyped and processed for shelf life and microbial safety in a new processing lab and analyzed in its new beverage analysis cluster lab; while food and beverage companies can further their product development in a new agri-business commercialization space.

“Thanks to a generous donation from community donors Benny and Louise Marotta, and family; support from our Student Administrative Council; and vital funding from our federal, provincial and regional governments; our Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus is set to become a hub for research and innovation in Canada’s agri-food industry,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson, PhD. “The strong support for this new complex is a testament to the power of a Niagara College education, not only in the high-quality experiential learning we offer to our students, but in the strong role we play in our communities, helping small- and medium-sized enterprises innovate, which, in turn, generates jobs and stimulates the economy.”

“This is an exciting day for Niagara College’s Research & Innovation Division. The expansion of our Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre within the new Marotta Family Innovation Complex supports the agri-food and agri-business sectors in Niagara,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, NC’s vice-president of Research, Innovation and Strategic Initiatives. “It also enhances experiential learning opportunities for our students, which will, in turn, expand the pool of highly qualified personnel in the food and beverage labour market to meet industry needs.

“We thank the generosity of the Marotta family, our Niagara College Student Administrative Council, and funding from our federal, provincial and regional governments for this vital investment.”

The new complex is named after the family of Benny and Louise Marotta, residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake, whose generous $1-million donation to the College’s Achieving Dreams campaign – which supported the development of the complex – was announced in April 2018. The family owns Solmar Development Corp, and Benny and Louise’s daughters Angela and Melissa are proprietors of the award-winning Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“As a family we have always looked ahead towards progress, keeping traditions alive and making communities stronger. We are proud to be supporting Niagara College,” said Angela Marotta. “Our goal is to help ensure this vibrant student community is always looking forward and that they will achieve success in all aspects of their life. By doing this today, we ensure the future of our industry is in good hands for the next generation of students and industry in Niagara.”

The new complex also enhances student life. The lower floor includes a new 6,000-square-foot fitness centre/ studio and 5,870-square foot gymnasium (which opened in September 2018), as well as new classrooms, and student space for study and entrepreneurship (which opened in January 2019).

The Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC) coordinated student contributions of $10.5 million, which supported the fitness centre and gymnasium inside the complex.

“The Marotta Family Innovation Complex is a statement piece that Niagara College is dedicated to the constant evolution of learning. This building will focus on creating innovative learning spaces, advanced modern classrooms, as well as focusing on experiential learning opportunities,” said NCSAC president Tom Price. “Furthermore, the Complex focuses not only on the educational development of our students but their physical and mental health as well.

“Featuring a state-of-the-art fitness facility, students can unwind and take a break from studying while getting a rejuvenating workout in between classes,” said Price. “This was truly important to NCSAC, as we want to make sure our students have the best student life experience possible, each and every day.”

The Complex incorporates sustainable technologies including electric vehicle charging stations, a green roof water retention system, a high-efficiency cooling system, and a rainwater collection and irrigation system.

The project received strong government support including $8.7 million from the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (announced November 2016); $1.55 million from the provincial government (announced November 2016); $816,000 from the Ontario Research Fund (announced July 2018); $816,000 from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s College-Industry fund (announced July 2018). Niagara Region also contributed $1.4 million toward the development of the complex, as well as to the newly announced Niagara College-led Greenhouse Technology Network.