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A first-timer at the Vancouver Island State of the Island Summit

Even though I attended high school and college on Vancouver Island, I had never heard of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) until I returned after a 10 year off-island hiatus to live in Comox, BC. I started a digital marketing business in Vancouver just a few months before moving closer to family in the Valley. I joined a business development and networking group- LIFT Comox Valley– which connected me with like minded entrepreneurs and introduced me to VIEA and their annual State of the Island Economic Summit.

“Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture— the Summit gives us a sense of what’s going on, Island-wide. This is the way we get together on the Island and talk about how change happens.” -Hans Peter Meyer, Owner, LIFT Comox Valley

As a cheerleader for local entrepreneurs in the Comox Valley, I immediately saw the benefit of attending the Summit for any Island business owner. My thoughts echo what Dan Dagg, President of Hot House Marketing, and many others said at the Summit: “a rising tide lifts all boats”. It didn’t seem to matter what your job title was, there was no ego or pretentiousness or attitudes at the Summit- just overwhelming desire to improve the Island economy, support collaboration among delegates and participate in meaningful discussion.

I’ll be honest, as a first-timer, the Summit was a bit of a whirlwind for me. Two very action packed days in rooms full of unfamiliar faces. I was working at the event, providing social media coverage on behalf of VIEA, but other delegates still took time to chat with me even though I must have seemed quite rude with my phone in front of my face 90% of the time! I really enjoyed hearing from other delegates what kept them coming back to the Summit. Here’s my Summit first-timer tip #1: Bring lots of business cards and look to make lasting connections.

The Summit highlights are the keynote presentations, breakout sessions, and networking on the trade show floor. Breakout sessions were fun and lively with engaged audiences asking smart questions. The most challenging part of the Summit for me was deciding which breakout session to go to, as they run four concurrently. Without really considering options, I went to all of them. It was incredibly interesting albeit overwhelming! I don’t recommend this tactic (if it even is one). I could never fully immerse myself in any one session because no sooner had I grasped the concepts and ideas being put forth, I had already moved into the next room. Which brings me to my Summit first-timer tip #2: Choose breakout sessions wisely so you can engage meaningfully in discussions.

“The Summit offers incredible workshops and the chance to be in the room with experts in their field. I always leave filled with energy, enthusiasm, and great ideas to implement in my community.”
 – Kris Patterson, Vice President, Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce

The Summit is an incredible platform to make meaningful connections and have light-bulb-on learning moments. One of the most impactful things about the Summit seems to be the conversations it inspires that go beyond the breakout sessions, onto the trade show floor and out into the community. These conversations can go on to influence action at regional and Island-wide levels. Last but not least, here’s my Summit first-timer tip #3: Join the conversation! Your opinion matters. Follow up with connections made at the Summit and consider engaging with industry or region-wide organizations.

My first Summit gave me access to a wealth of information, inspiring leaders and a feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. I learned a lot about the current state of the Island economy and had some great conversations about how this might affect my community and my business. If you a get a chance, download the State of the Island Economic Report to get a more thorough analysis, but for now, here are some takeaways from the event that I believe are important for the future success of my own business as well as the Vancouver Island economy as a whole.

4 KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE SUMMIT

Diversifying the Economy

Having a variety of industries and types of businesses on Vancouver Island provides sustainable growth for the region and attracts a real mix of talent.

Collaborations are Key

The rising tide really does float all boats! We are stronger together.

Adoption of Innovation

Adopting innovation as a business strategy improves what you’re selling, increases your competitive edge and advances communities in terms of social, economic and environmental values.

Attracting & Recruiting Talent

It is key for the economic prosperity of the Island to have great jobs available to attract and keep talented individuals here; on the other hand, many business owners see Vancouver Island as a viable place to start a business and need to connect with those talented individuals who appreciate the Island lifestyle.

“Expanding local economic diversity while at the same time helping well established business thrive has a positive effect for all of us. Symbiotic relationships are created by VIEA every year which helps each individual group get stronger, I’m very proud to be a part of that happening. “
-Bret Torok-Both, VIEA Director, Regional Manager, Business Banking at IslandSavings

I will definitely be back next year at the State of the Island Economic Summit (Save the date: October 25th &26th, 2017). I hope you’ll join me there as a first-timer or returning delegate! I’ll be taking my own advice to make lasting connections, choose breakout sessions wisely and consider engaging with industry/ region-wide organizations.

Kelsey Wood
Director, Social Marketing & Brand Communications
Red Toque Creative
Comox Valley, BC

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