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CEO Sperber Raising VIEA to the Next Level

Story from Business ExaminerBusiness Examiner Staff

NANAIMO – The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) has been promoting economic development throughout the region for nearly 20 years.

Julie Sperber was named CEO and President of the non-profit, non-governmental organization in 2022, and has been working hard to bring it to the next level while building on the successes of the past.

“VIEA really looks at supporting and helping to build thriving and resilient regional economy activities, whether that is small and medium enterprise, whether that’s with industry leaders and even through community development and the economic development offices that represent the different regions,” she explains. “In my first year, we were making the transition from systems of how my predecessor, George Hanson, operated, and he left the organization with a very strong foundation.”

It is Sperber’s mandate to bring the highest profile VIEA initiatives like the annual fall State of The Island Business Summit and Island Good manufacturing promotion effort to the next level.

Sperber brought a diverse resume to her VIEA post, as she started in the hospitality sector, where she worked internationally in management positions. She earned a degree in jewellery and ran her own studio-based jewellery artisan business for many years in Victoria and Gabriola Island, then along with her husband, started a coffee roasting business and restaurant. Following completion of non-profit and community economic development studies at Simon Fraser University, she worked in social services and in Chambers of Commerce, all of which prepared her for the challenge ahead at VIEA.

VIEA’s creation of the Island Good initiative in 2018 to promote Vancouver Island made goods has been an outstanding success.

“Island Good benefits our producers, growers and makers and manufacturers in the region, and we are looking at doing some investment in transitioning that to its next evolution of what the brand can grow to, and find its next prosperous level,” she says.

“Hitting all the targets and budget projections for Summit 2023 was a major accomplishment,” she says. “There are so many logistical intricacies in producing an event like that. Last year we attracted nearly 600 people from around the region to the Vancouver Island Conference Center and we had 90 different speakers, session panelists and facilitators that offered a grassroots opportunity for people to connect with what’s happening in the region.”

She introduced Action Labs for food security and community design and development to the Summit, both of which were very well received.

“The Action Labs are turning into a two-year project for regional discussion on food sovereignty and how to achieve that with community design and development,” she notes. “We have also developed an economic dashboard and it’s produced some excellent insights and data, as last year marked a shift from a physical or a larger E-document file to the live digital dashboard.”

VIEA was considering digitizing State of the Island report for a number of years, and with the change in leadership, it seemed to be an opportune time to make the switch.

“This will allow having that information and data used by a wider group of people than just those who come and attend the summit,” she adds. “Copies of those reports can be downloaded from the VIEA website. I would love to see access to the digital dashboard at our library network at the post-secondary level and institutions and economic classes.”

Sperber would love it to be a resource place not just for the economic data that VIEA has, but also for research and development studies projects.

“If the Regional District of Mount Waddington, for example, has done a project or study and it’s for public consumption, I would love there to be a resource page for the Island that has relevant and recent studies that people can draw from each other’s work experience,” she states.

Business Examiner Staff

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