Saanich municipal hall hosted the first visit by the region’s new economic development association, the South Island Prosperity Project, on Wednesday.
Born from the South Vancouver Island Economic Development Association that took hold earlier this year, SIPP will target eight areas of growth for the South Island economy. Saanich is contributing $109,157 to SIPP in 2016 and then $184,634 each year until 2020.
Along with a new name, the SIPP board selected Emilie de Rosenroll as the executive director from 150 applications in a nationwide search.
De Rosenroll recently returned to her birthplace of Victoria after spending most of her professional life in Nova Scotia where she worked as the lead consultant to the province in their economic development initiatives. In 2013 she was recognized as one of Nova Scotia’s top 25 leaders under the age of 35.
“It’s important that we act as a catalyst for economic change and that our work with the local economy reflects the culture and values of the community,” she said.
The group will be working with all its members to develop a five-year plan for the execution of the group’s economic sector strategies. Most of the 13 communities have already signed on.
Bill Bergen was named board chair for SIPP, and believes his and de Rosenroll’s recent arrival to the Island (both live in Saanich) is a benefit. Bergen arrived in Victoria less than three years ago after working 30 years as a leader and entrepreneur in the high-tech industry. Upon arriving in Victoria, he worked with a (business) incubator program at the University of Victoria where he was struck by the lack of investment in regionally relevant businesses.
“We’re not influenced by past efforts and their success or failure.” Bergen said. “We’re approaching this with a clean slate and are open to any ideas that lead to fulfilling our project’s goals.”
In brief, the SIPP team are out meeting with the founding partners and regional stakeholders, said Coun. Fred Haynes, Saanich council’s liaison with SIPP.
“In a few weeks SIPP will share a discussion paper on the goals and objectives and invite our input,” Haynes said. “Some immediate actions are being taken in Saanich regarding local agriculture and food, one of the eight targeted economic sectors.”
De Rosenroll and her staff are in contact with (Saanich resident) Linda Geggie, executive director for CR-Fair, Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Round Table.
“My impression is these initiatives will dovetail with the ongoing Saanich task force on food and agriculture,” Haynes said. “With so much fallow land in Saanich and the Peninsula (40 per cent), how do we turn this into a higher end use?”
Between SIPP and Saanich’s food and agriculture task force, Haynes is hoping to create an easier entry to agriculture. That includes an added appeal to younger farmers, while other barriers are the cost of land, suitable training for farmers, and understanding the markets for locally produced food, Haynes added.
“This is just one of eight factors but it’s an important one to Saanich,” Haynes said.
SIPP’s initial strategy was to focus on eight sectors: agriculture, agribusiness and aquaculture; clean technology; ocean technology and marine space; aviation and aerospace; advanced education; advanced manufacturing; sport and culture; and construction.
– With files from Tim Collins