Building Bridges Between Institutions – Part 3

Employers report that new workers entering the workforce often do not have the skills required to fulfill the terms of their employment. In addition, much of the existing workforce requires retraining to update their skills so companies can continue to compete in the changing economy. Educational institutions and local employers would benefit from a closer working relationship. We are pleased to participate in organizing is the EduTech trade show, scheduled for the fall, which will do exactly that – provide a direct link between Peninsula employers, educators and students. Research proves that the higher educated a population is, the more attractive a community will be to potential new businesses. We have tremendous educational assets in our region and we would do well to highlight them in our promotion and marketing of the area.

It is also important we examine the extent to which current legislation at the federal and provincial levels impacts how easily business can be conducted in this area. We could look at improving access to capital funding, creating tax structures that are fair and competitive and building transportation systems that move people easily. At the local level, municipalities can support growth by means of flexible zoning bylaws and approval processes that are streamlined, less complicated and swift. Regional development goals could be further supported if zoning and approvals processes across the municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula were more closely aligned. Government at all levels, as well as organizations such as ours, play a central role in fostering an environment of entrepreneurialism that creates the solid footing for economic stability.

Businesses consider the assets of a region when making important investment decisions. When you consider your own movement throughout the area, it becomes clear that none of us live, work, shop, socialize, and play in one municipality. If we, as community institutions, don’t recognize the benefit of working and acting as a region, there is a risk we are not considering the same issues that people or businesses do when making location decisions and we might therefore not present compelling evidence for them to choose this place.

Denny Warner,
Executive Director

It Takes a Region to Raise an Economy – Part 2 of 3

Last month I discussed the strategy of growing the economy by attracting more people to live in an area and suggested the most desirable groups to target based on their ability and willingness to contribute to the overall health of a community are baby boomers, entrepreneurial immigrants and millennials. Now we will look at how the quality of place matters in attracting newcomers.

In this new economy, the jobs and employers are locating where the talent is and talented people are choosing to live in what are described as “quality places”. There are many components of a quality place and each community will have its own unique identifiers. Broadly speaking, knowledge workers looking to relocate seek the following in a community: a focus on green initiatives and sustainable growth, an excellent transportation system, cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities, a high level of community engagement, a growing economy, access to medical health professionals, locally-grown food, and safety.

No single municipality embodies all the components of a quality place but regions often can and do. People move to regions with little regard for, or awareness of, artificial geographic boundaries.  It is the sum of the parts of the municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula, and easy access to Victoria and all it offers, that makes this area attractive to talented newcomers.

There is a thriving world-wide movement called Placemaking which begins with citizens working together to improve their local environment. Placemaking is committed to “strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution” (Project for Public Spaces).

The placemaking process is an important strategy for attracting talented people and growing the economy in a region. We would do well to consider the flow of people and funds on the Saanich Peninsula and how investment in any one of our three municipalities benefits the entire region. The largest structural barriers faced by placemakers in Canada are comprised of regulations, bylaws and siloed municipalities.  The Saanich Peninsula could be an exceptional “quality place” if we could ditch the old model that has served to isolate municipalities in the region and instead institute a framework that is participatory and collaborative.

Next month: Building Bridges between Institutions

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

The Importance of Community Relations

We wrapped up another successful Tour of Industry at the end of January. The Tour is important for many reasons, one of which is because it strengthens the relationship between businesses and the community.

The business/community relationship is not one-sided. The most obvious benefit for the community is that businesses create jobs. The business and employee tax revenue funds essential government programs such as health, education and infrastructure. We would not enjoy a healthy community absent thriving businesses. The kinds of businesses that locate in our area help establish our community identity and sense of place.

It is difficult to measure the ROI of community investment but businesses that expend their time and financial resources for this purpose stand to reap many benefits when they make it a core focus of their overall business philosophy. Companies who have made this investment report the networking has assisted them to find new markets, customers, and potential investors, they have had an easier time attracting employees and retention rates are higher, their customers view them as being more trustworthy, honest and stable and they experience increased familiarity with their brand. Perhaps most importantly, over time, this investment will increase revenue. With respect to the businesses on the Saanich Peninsula operating internationally, your community members may not be purchasing your product but they will be interested in your opinions, perspectives and expertise and you will benefit from community feedback and support. Competitors can imitate your product or service but they cannot replicate your community.

How can you invest in your community? I have a few suggestions: take out or renew your Chamber membership, sponsor an event, establish an employee volunteer program, participate in our Tour of Industry, nominate your business for a Crystal Award for Business Excellence, support a local charity or share your expertise with new entrepreneurs. Being a good community member is not something that can be done sporadically but rather is something that needs to be done consistently and visibly.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Opportunity Abounds

The reports of the demise of Sidney’s downtown as a result of mall development on the Saanich Peninsula are greatly exaggerated. Why I say that with confidence is because downtown Sidney presently embodies the most important elements of a healthy and prosperous community. Sidney is definitely a changing community, but positively, as living and work spaces are being developed in keeping with a vision that considers how people want to live, engendering a strong sense of place.

Downtown Sidney-by-the-Sea is distinctive from other areas on the Peninsula, indeed from others on Vancouver Island. It is a destination because of its picturesque waterfront area. It is a compact, safe, multifunctional, pedestrian-friendly community, with an interesting mix of businesses. Consideration has been given to the aesthetics and to creating spaces for people to gather and linger. The environmental and natural settings are attractive to residents and create a community where neighbours converse while taking leisurely walks down Beacon and along the seaside waterfront walkway. It also makes Sidney a choice location for day-trippers.

This is very different from the purpose of a mall – a place where people make objective-based shopping decisions. These shoppers want to be in and out quickly and that means creating sizeable parking areas. A mall meets specific needs for shoppers but it cannot compete with the sense of place, of belonging, people seek in a community.

I don’t believe we want downtown Sidney to be good at being a parking lot for shoppers. The Gateway and Sandown developments will create greater economic activity on the Saanich Peninsula and will not necessarily threaten the vibrancy of downtown Sidney if we work together to maximize this opportunity.

 

Denny Warner, Executive Director

Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce