By Aly Winks
Presenters: Pat Deakin, Economic Development Officer, City of Port Alberni; Mike Hooper, CEO, Nanaimo Airport Authority; David McCormick, Director, Public Relations and Business Development, Port Alberni Port Authority; David Makay, Seaspan Ferries
Moderator: William Collins, Principal, CollinsWorks Ventures
The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance wants to get Vancouver Island designated as a Foreign Trade Zone – a label that helps reduce barriers to doing business and includes tax breaks for international businesses wanting to set up shop in the area.\
A federal label not yet awarded to any geographical area in Canada, the first step is to get the Island designated as a Foreign Trade Zone Point (FTZ Point), which provides federal concierge service to international companies doing business here.
All panellists were in favour of the idea, and have been working for some time to make it a reality.
So far, the response from the federal government has been that the group needs to show basically every entity – municipalities, local First Nations groups and regional districts – are in favour of the idea, as well as most citizens and businesses.
Deakin, in his role, said major business owners in Port Alberni have told him to “get me a foreign trade or a free trade zone and I will transform the economy of the region.” In short, these business owners see their growth stifled based on current trade laws.
Hooper said the FTZ Point would allow the Nanaimo Regional Airport to create trade routes with ferry, shipping, and intermodal trucking and train companies to more efficiently and cost-effectively move goods, while doing business with major players like Amazon.
What is unique about the Island’s application? Current FTZ Points only apply to one municipality, rather than a region.
Why has the designation never been awarded? Deakin said the federal government has told him they see it as a race to the bottom in terms of corporate tax breaks.
VIEA is asking members to sign its petition in support of the initiative.