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Vancouver Island economic summit focuses on collaborative solutions

From, Mick Sweetman October 24, 2023

The 17th Annual State of the Island Economic Summit opened at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in downtown Nanaimo on Wednesday.

The conference is organized by the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) and brings together local governments, business owners, and First Nations to network and discuss how to improve the Island’s economy.

VIEA’s CEO Julie Sperber says that the conference is a place to highlight opportunities on Vancouver Island.

“We’re all so busy in our own lives, jobs, professions, and we don’t really know what’s happening within our own region,” she said. “So at this event, we get to feature and share what different innovative business models are producing and growing in the region.”

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog says that not only is the conference an important event for the city’s economy, attracting over 600 people who spend money at local businesses, but it is also a great way to hear people’s ideas on how to improve the city

“I’m interested in hearing what people have to say and what themes start to emerge, not just ones that are being promoted by the conference, but what’s the the talk in the hallway, if you will, to get some sense of the concerns of people issues that they may have with the city itself in terms of why they may or may not invest or create jobs here,” he said.

“The fact is that these kinds of conferences are often seen by the nattering nabobs of negativism as just a big talk fest,” said Krog. “For me they are about networking, which is so important to the long term economic and social health of our community.”

This year, as part of about 20 sessions over two days, the conference is also hosting “action labs” on regional food security, community design and economic development where people can problem-solve common challenges.

Sperber says that the action lab on regional food security is especially important for Vancouver Island

“I think most Vancouver Islanders are familiar with the three days of food on the island. “If catastrophe were to strike and we weren’t going to have regular transportation modes coming in, that is a huge factor in why we’re having this discussion.”

One of VIEA’s initiatives is the Island Good logo that helps consumers identify goods and products produced on the Island. VIEA board chair Katie Bishop says the idea came out of discussions at a previous conference.

“You will see a lot of producers will have a stamp of Island Good on their product, it will be sold in local stores and we like to promote that,” she said. “I think that’s really contributed to some growth and strong sales for a lot of those partners.”

Premier David Eby scheduled to speak at the conference on Thursday morning.

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