John Horgan speaks at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo on Wednesday, Oct. 25. (Nicholas Pescod/file)

600 business leaders pack Island Economic Summit

The two-day event featured keynote presentations from Premier John Horgan

Black Press

Six hundred community and business leaders from Port Hardy to Victoria gathered at the Economic Summit in Nanaimo last week to learn about the state of the Island’s economy.

“All the executive level decision makers on the island in the same room for two days?! An incredible opportunity to connect personally and professionally!” said Ann Squires Ferguson, a partner with Western Interior Design.

The two-day event at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre featured keynote presentations from Premier John Horgan, BC Treaty Commissioner Celeste Haldane, Minister of Fisheries & Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson and Susan Mowbray, senior manager of Economics and Research at MNP LLP.

Mowbray delivered an overview of the State of the Island Economic Report at the Summit, describing economic growth for 2018 as “moderate”.

“Interprovincial migration is slowing because of the cost of living in B.C. and on the Island. This will result in slower population growth and thus less labour moving to Vancouver Island, making it difficult for businesses here to expand,” she said.

Mowbray noted film production and cannabis as emerging sectors on Vancouver Island. There are currently five licensed cannabis producers on Vancouver Island and 43 applications filed with hopes to open retail operations.

With the recent success of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s Island Good pilot program — promoting Island made and produced food products with the ‘Island Good’ brand led to a 16.4 per cent average increase on sales of these goods— it’s no wonder Mowbray remarked that the Island-based licensed cannabis producers may be calling themselves ‘Island Good’ in no time.

Along with expert panels on the business of cannabis and the success of Island Good, the Summit held 14 other topical sessions including interactive discussions on Vancouver Island’s new Foreign Trade Zone designation and building business cases for foreign direct investment.

Since 2007 the State of the Island Economic Summit has provided opportunity for businesses and stakeholders on Vancouver Island to work together on solutions to overcome common challenges and to collaborate on projects with potential for positive long-term regional impact.

“There is no question that business leaders create this conference. It keeps 600 of the most influential Island entrepreneurs engaged, providing an intense atmosphere of information flow and discussion. It creates opportunities for business promotion, personal growth and education, and most impressive is the constant dialogue and innovative collaboration that gets results,” said a 2018 Summit delegate.

To learn more about the Summit and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s current initiatives, visit: www.viea.ca.

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