Vancouver Island Economic Alliance president George Hanson spoke to members of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce last week.

Hanson says small business is driving the economy

President of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance was speaking to a Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce crowd last week

Small, start-up tech companies and international education is helping to contribute to economic activity within the Parksville Qualicum Beach area says George Hanson.

Hanson, the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) president, spoke at the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce’s Connect, Network and More at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre on Sept. 8.

Hanson said there’s definitely growth in start-up technology and small tech companies. “There’s more small start up technology than you might imagine,” Hanson said.

Cloudhead Games, for instance, started in a garage in Qualicum Beach with three employees in 2013. From there it grew and moved into the Town of Qualicum Beach’s digital studio. Cloudhead grew again and moved to a location close to Goats on the Roof in Coombs. It grew again and began operating out of another location in Coombs. Three years later, Cloudhead is now operating out of the town’s old fire hall, and it’s still expected to grow.

Denny Unger, one of the founders of Cloudhead, will be a featured panelist among Vancouver Island tech innovators at VIEA’s State of the Island Summit Oct. 26-27 at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo.

Hanson also said international education is huge on the Island, and School District 69’s international student program is expected to grow for the 2016/17 school year.

“I know that many of the public secondary schools, for instance, have quite a number of international students,” Hanson said. “That creates more revenue for the school district, creates more jobs for teachers, so there’s a ripple effect to that because then those students they need food, they need housing, they need clothing, they need transportation.”

According to the district’s special budget meeting agenda from April 19, the expected revenue from tuition alone from the 2016/17 program is expected to be $3.2 million. That’s an increase of $389,000 from the 2015/16 school year.

Hanson said the mid-Island economy is reflective of the B.C. economy which is made up of predominately small businesses. “I think we will continue to see our economy driven by companies with less than 10 employees.”

Job creation, though, could be doing better according to Hanson. “We’re doing OK (with job creation). I think there’s a lot more than we can do,” he said. “Job creation is always attached to established businesses thriving and growing. As an established business improves their profitability and demand, then they grow a bit and that creates more stable jobs.”

Hanson has served on numerous community committees such as the Business Improvement Areas of British Columbia and Oceanside Development and Construction Association.

VIEA is a collaborative partnership spearheading regional economic development for the Island.

Hanson said VIEA works with business industry institutions and other non-profits with “a common goal of seeking competitive advantages for the Vancouver Island economy.”

To find out more about VIEA, visit www.viea.ca.

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