A few weeks ago we were making a formal presentation to Mayor and Council of one of our ten municipal government members (among our 45-strong membership base). At the end of the presentation one of the Councillors asked, “Even with South Island Prosperity Project in place, are Victoria and Saanich and other municipalities still our competitors”? It’s a great question that requires unpacking.
The short answer is yes. When it comes to competing with each other, there is no denying that having a business, a real estate investment, or a family locating in your municipality is in the best interest of the municipality. Businesses bring tax revenue and (hopefully) quality services to the local market. Investors in real estate—presumably with a finite amount of money—can choose where to build new commercial or residential assets and with them valuable tax revenues. And families—especially in a region so geographically intertwined—have several choices of where to live. Their choice leads to increased demand for more investment into housing (and thus a continued flow of property tax—the number one way municipalities sustain themselves financially).
All that stated, our region will still be way better off with a collaborative economic development approach. With global changes, whether they are technological, geopolitical, economic, social, legal or environmental, municipalities need to have their eyes on how these changes will impact them. In the economic sense, for example, municipalities are often too small to compete for talent and major employers that will help arm them against recessions. Municipalities can partake in healthy competition—creating healthy business and investment climates, improving quality of life assets like parks and green space, and many other elements of municipal control—and they can also collaborate on the big picture to ensure their citizens have career opportunities, even if these opportunities aren’t located directly in their municipality. The local services will be supported by those career opportunities.
The Big Picture
What we mean by the big picture is really about setting our region up for the future. What will the next generation of jobs look like and who will create those jobs? Are we content with just being a government/Navy town with a strong tourism brand? Or do we want more diversity? In other words, we all love to live here, but will our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to build their careers and support their families here?
SIPP was recently in Atlanta, Georgia at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference. The IEDC is the largest economic development association in the world. Each year the IEDC awards cities and regions for excellence in a number of categories. This year SIPP is receiving one of these awards for regional collaboration. Read the media release here.
SIPP was created is April 2016 to bring our region together to pursue the future that we collectively want. This means a values-driven approach. In just two and half years, SIPP has grown from its 29 founders (including ten municipalities and two First Nations) to now 45 members (ten municipalities, five First Nations, five business and industry associations, two non-profit societies, three post-secondary institutions, and over 20 private business members including financial institutions, tech companies, and some of the region’s top employers). This diverse public-private partnership is working together to achieve SIPP’s mandate of a diverse regional economy on South Vancouver Island.
Together is better
Awards will come and go, but the reality is that SIPP—through this fabulous membership base —has brought the region together in the context of a somewhat fractured environment where collaboration is hard and competition certainly exists. These members support our work in cluster and sectoral development in Smart Cities industries (through the Smart South Island initiative), building capacity of entrepreneurship and economic development with First Nations through our IndigenousConnect forums and the Songhees Innovation Centre, building the region’s future employment base through the BusinessConnect program, understanding our region and painting a picture of the future through our annual South Island Prosperity Index, Smart Cities Readiness Assessment and other swot analysis and competitive advantage analysis, and lastly, our work to attract diverse employers here from outside Canada (we have some exciting developments coming in October around our announcement of Brazil-based Daitan Group choosing the South Island for their North American development team).So does SIPP deserve the international recognition for this work? We humbly think the answer is yes. Collaboration is hard, but when we are showing this region that while they do have healthy competition with “Victoria and Saanich and other municipalities”, at the end of the day, we and our citizens will win through collaboration. Together is better.