VIEA 12th Annual State of the Island Economic Summit

The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance celebrates all that is good and growing on Vancouver Island.


On a recent trip off-Island, an Islander was asked, more than once, where she was from. She replied, “From Vancouver Island,” and was met every time by exclamations of Lucky you. I love it there! What are you doing here?

That life and business on Vancouver Island are good is something the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) and its members have always known. And at this year’s State of the Island Economic Summit (October 24 & 25) the organization will celebrate all that is good and growing across the Island, from Victoria to Port Hardy, Nanaimo to Tofino, and including the Northern and Southern Gulf Islands.

Since its start over 12 years ago, VIEA has been actively involved in bringing diverse and knowledgeable voices to the table to discuss issues, challenges, opportunities and trends in the Vancouver Island economy.

While the world economy is in a state of flux, conversations within the VIEA membership continue to revolve around creating economic vibrancy, diversity and resiliency in our Island communities as we face constant and often unpredictable change.

Through the creation and delivery of innovative economic initiatives, VIEA promotes what’s good on Vancouver Island.

Current projects include:

the Island Good campaign to increase demand for local food and beverage products

the Foreign Direct Investment opportunity

the Island Wood Industry Forum

the State of the Island Economic Summit
and the publication of the annual State of
the Island Economic Report

co-hosting of the Aboriginal Business Match on Vancouver Island since 2015 and evolving this successful B2B event into the first VIEA Business Match, planned for March 2019 in Victoria.

Island Good

Among the many positive news stories from this past year is the success of Island Good, a pilot project launched in March 2018 to raise consumer awareness of Island food and beverage products to help strengthen the local food economy. With participating retail partners Country Grocer, Thrifty Foods, Quality Foods and 49th Parallel Grocery, the campaign clearly identifies Island-grown and produced foodstuffs on grocery store shelves, making it easier for consumers to shop local. VIEA monitored the effect on sales by comparing same product-same store-same month sales activity from March through September of this year with the same period last year.

“We’ll be sharing sales results from the six-month pilot project and announcing Island Good Phase II at the Economic Summit in October,” says Dan Dagg of Hothouse Marketing and chair of VIEA’s Island Good Committee. “The response from consumers, retailers, food producers, processors and distributors has exceeded our wildest expectations! Island Good is here to stay.”

Food products are an easily understood starting point for Island Good branding, but VIEA’s ultimate goal is to have every product from potatoes to airplane parts marked ‘Grown’ or ‘Made on Vancouver Island.’ And the word so far is: It’s all good. Island Good!

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

VIEA feels the time is right to attract foreign direct investment dollars to Vancouver Island by identifying, developing and assembling a portfolio of investment opportunities to market internationally. We are developing this portfolio with funding from the Invest Canada Community Initiatives program, Island Coastal Economic Trust, Cowichan Valley Regional District, City of Port Alberni and Port Alberni Port Authority.

Public and private stakeholders are being invited to help identify local investment opportunities, which the expert VIEA team will qualify. Six sector-specific, site-specific, tangible, vetted business cases will be designed to attract the attention of targeted foreign direct investors. Together with three wood industry cases already developed by VIEA in 2017, they will form the portfolio content.

The scope of this FDI initiative includes:

educating and engaging stakeholders and building an understanding of FDI opportunities;

working with public/private stakeholders to qualify and quantify their offerings, identify new markets, industry partners and foreign investors, and engage foreign investors in

commercial/industrial lands;

working with transportation providers and goods producers to identify cost-effective value chain opportunities

helping to increase production with existing companies and to increase international appetite for products

introducing specific investments to foreign investors focused on sectors for domestic and export development.

VIEA has developed three business cases for new value-added wood manufacturing now available to the investment community and is developing six additional business cases in other industry sectors: advanced manufacturing in aerospace, medical devices, biotech, transportation, and marine/environmental sciences, value-added wood manufacturing, finfish and shellfish aquaculture, and technology-intense specialty agrifood production.

These and other opportunities are ripe for foreign investor attention. FDI marketing will raise international awareness of these and other opportunities on Vancouver Island.

Wood Industries

The first-ever Vancouver Island Wood Industries Forum was held in March 2018 and was the result of four years of work by VIEA to support the expansion of markets and diversification of value-added wood manufacturing on Vancouver Island. This event was of particular interest to the 100 stakeholders in attendance directly involved in wood manufacturing. 

Presenters came sharing ideas and accessing information on how to strengthen and diversify value-added manufacturing and focused on issues and opportunities associated with access to fibre, and innovative manufacturing.

Through stakeholder meetings, interviews, surveys, product research, economic analysis, and business case development, VIEA has developed a starting point for meaningful dialogue about opportunities to generate more wealth and increase sustainable production
on Vancouver Island.

Through all this, as well as advocacy from key industry associations, industry and government now share appreciation of the critical need for positive change in industry practices and government policy to ensure manufacturing diversity and sustainable wealth generation in our Island communities.

12th Annual State of the
Island Economic Summit —
October 24 & 25, 2018

Attracting some 600 participants each year, VIEA’s Summit is the business networking event on Vancouver Island and features national and international experts on timely topics. Each year the Summit program is developed by a volunteer committee using a grassroots approach to ensure relevance and diversity of content that is both meaningful and immediate to the current state of the Island and world economy.

This year, program themes include:

Legalization of Cannabis: what you need to know to be workplace ready.

Futurescape 2.0: technology advancements that will impact your business and the ways you do business.

Marine Response: details of how, when and where this major federal infrastructure investment will take shape throughout our region.

Renewable Energy: what is and is not working on Vancouver Island.

Island Good: reporting on this VIEA pilot project and moving towards Phase II as we increase demand for Island food products. And in the spirit of walking that talk, all meals served at this year’s Summit will be made with Island food products.

Among the key presenters this year will be: Chief Commissioner Celeste Haldane of the BC Treaty Commission, who will provide an update on the treaty process involving Island First Nations, and Susan Mowbray, senior economist with MNP, reporting on the 2018 state of our Island economy and how it is trending.

2018 State of the Island Economic Report

VIEA will release its 4th State of the Island Economic Report at the October Summit. Thanks to substantial and continuing contributions from MNP along with support from the Nanaimo Airport, BC Ferries, BC Hydro, Coastal Community Credit Union and the BC Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology, VIEA has published this report annually since October 2015.

The 50-page publication has become a valuable tool for anyone interested in knowing what is happening in the Island economy — and especially anyone writing a business plan or forecasting sectoral performance or regional economic trends.

Published in a reader-friendly, infographic format with statistical content specific to Vancouver Island, the report presents reliable data that can be compared over time. The $195 report is complimentary to Economic Summit delegates and free to VIEA members. It is available for purchase through Amazon with online access to the data behind the data for researchers needing a deeper dive.

It’s all part of understanding the unique attributes of our Island, the challenges we face and the many opportunities available to us when we all work together.

This article is from the October/November 2018 issue of Douglas