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Editorial: Economic drivers needed for our Island
Daily News 
October 31, 2013 12:00 AM

Wanted on Vancouver Island: Economic drivers. An economic driver is a company that takes something from here and sells it there. That could mean making or extracting something, but the bottom line is businesses that do these things bring revenue from elsewhere to our communities.
These were aptly referred to as “first-dollar” industries in the recent past, in recognition of their value in kickstarting the economy by bringing new money here. Without these types of companies, we really can’t have much of an economy.
So, who are the economic drivers on Vancouver Island? Harmac Pacific, for example, which makes pulp and sells it to customers throughout the world.
Coastland Wood Industries Ltd., which manufactures veneer.
Logging companies, which cut down timber that is sold to the United States and Asia. There are also sawmills that produce value-added wood products, and others that remanufacture wood for customers.
Tourism could also be classified as an economic driver, in that companies within this sector bring outside money onto the island. The film industry attracts productions from the United States to shoot movies, programs and commercials here.
With the number of international students it attracts each year, Vancouver Island University would also be in the driver category.
Inuktun Services Ltd., which has carved out a global reputation for the robots it makes, is one. So is VMAC, which stands for Vehicle Mounted Air Compressors, which creates air compressor units that are mounted under a vehicle’s hood.
Vancouver Island has two operating mines: The Nyrstar copper-zinc mine at Myra Falls near Campbell River and Quinsam Coal in Campbell River. There are several prospects for future mines, including the Raven Coal mine in the Comox Valley.
Recent statistics indicated the Myra Falls mine alone generated the same amount of economic activity as the entire cruise ship industry for British Columbia. Imagine what the 350 high-paying jobs at Raven
Coal mine would mean to the Island economy.
The importance of these economic drivers cannot be understated. We are continuing to witness and benefit from the robust economy of Northern B.C. and Alberta, with an increasing number of people commuting for jobs in colder climes, yet maintaining permanent residences and raising families here.
This week’s State of the Island Economic Summit featured a number of interesting speakers and intriguing presentations from a number of sectors, including forestry, energy, transportation and green technology. All of these are important spokes in the economic wheel, and of course, there are businesses that offer supplies and services for businesses and residents. It is good to be reminded of their importance in the overall scheme of things. They keep people working and enhance the quality of life that we’ve come to expect living on Vancouver Island.
Yet the need to create and encourage more making/extracting companies on the Island is becoming more urgent than ever. The skilled trade shortage up north is draining our talent pool workers head there for better career opportunities.
If we want to keep those people here and want our economy to grow, we need more economic drivers, and we need them now.
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