“The West Means Business” was the tagline at Monday’s press conference announcing funding from the federal government to bring international business and trade opportunities to the Greater Victoria region.
The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced $898,000 to support the Greater Victoria Development Agency (GVDA), through the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce (GVCC).
The funds will be used to prepare Greater Victoria small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to take advantage of international business opportunities, and to showcase the region. The announcement was made from Whitehall Rowing & Sail’s showroom to highlight one of the area’s businesses that has had global success.
“It’s programs like this that take something that is so close to the goal post and kick it over the line,” Rempel says. “The initiative will increase export opportunities for small and medium size enterprises and identify a global market action plan, increasing international trade and investment in Greater Victoria.”
The project will be carried out by the GVDA, the region’s economic development office, who will combine the federal contribution with over $600,000 from local stakeholders and institutions, creating a $1.6-million project to be carried out over the next three years.
According to Dallas Gislason, the GVDA economic development officer, the economy of the region is going through a fundamental transformation and can no longer rely on government jobs as the foundation of its stability.
“Over the last three years our region has actually lost 1,900 public sector jobs,” Gislason says. “This means to become a sustainable community we must shift towards the private sector for job creation. The good news is that we have many burgeoning sectors locally — software, gaming, defence, ocean-science and marine, life science, advanced manufacturing and aviation to name just a few. This project announcement enables us to act accordingly to strengthen this private sector and focus on their growth and development.”
Gislason believes that collaboration will be paramount to the success of the project. Local post-secondary institutions, the Victoria International Airport, VIATec, local input providers — such as financial institutions and Chambers of Commerce — as well as local municipalities will be brought together to determine how to better serve local businesses.
“Effective economic development,” Gislason says, “is about meeting the needs of businesses so they can create jobs.”