Island weathering a rough economy, says VIEA

There's no shortage of challenges, but Island is getting by

George Hanson

Vancouver Island’s economy is not all that good, says the president of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance.

George Hanson added while this is the case, there are some rays of light at the end of the tunnel.

“Some projects are still going ahead because (their owners) have some confidence,” he said during VIEA’s linking Island business trade show in Qualicum Beach April 11.

“The cost of money is low and construction costs are lower.”

As a result, he continued, long-range projects and forecasts aren’t all that bad.

VIEA, which represents all Vancouver Island businesses (but has a distinctly mid-Island flavour), has been around for only a few years and last week’s trade show was the second of its kind. Last year’s event was held in Parksville.

“Because the Island economy is not heavily industrialized, the world economy’s impact on manufacturing and big ticket items (such as cars), doesn’t land as hard as it would in, say, southern Ontario.”

Hanson added he would describe the Island’s overall economic outlook right now as flat — something he said he has been hearing from many of the VIEA members.

“Considering the state of the rest of the world, flat is not a bad thing.”

Yet, he does recognize the vulnerability of the Island’s mostly service-oriented economy to market fluctuations. While he said the climate there is not too hot — not too cold — local small businesses can do much to ensure their customers — local and otherwise — keep coming back.

“Customer service is important,” he said. ‘As is consistency. Build relationships with customers to keep and attract clients.”

He added events like the trade show help businesses make new connections and find opportunities.

Parksville chamber of commerce executive director Kim Burden added that events at the VIEA show, like a breakout session on the proposed John Hart Dam in Campbell River, can help local businesses find opportunities to supply the different aspects of such a large project.

“The spin-off from that could be huge,” he said.

Qualicum Beach mayor Teunis Westbroek addressed the trade show audience, saying such events help local prosperity.

“As community leaders, we know how businesses build our communities,” he said.

Hanson said it’s VIEA’s goal in such trade shows to show local businesses of any size, the opportunities to grow and to link with others to expand the Island economy.

“Doing business locally,” he continued, “keeps those dollars in the community. And in turn, those businesses re-invest that money into other local businesses.”


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