Powering economic innovation through digital mapping: Esri Canada’s smart technology makes sense of layers of data
Q+A with Esri Canada
Esri Canada’s mandate is to empower people and businesses with the information they need to make the best decisions for their future. Esri’s unique approach uses geographic information systems (GIS) to help communities create jobs, identify opportunities and attract new business.
Their mapping technology enables dynamic, interactive maps, reports and analytics that provide key data and allow iterative planning in real time, identifying gaps in service and infrastructure, understanding community and business behaviour and patterns to effect efficient change and growth.
SIPP talks to Dan Ruscheinski, Senior Director for Marketing and Sales Operations for Esri Canada — a SIPP member since 2018 — about how Esri’s mapping technology informs and helps grow the economy of Greater Victoria.
Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?
The South Island region is my home and I wanted to ensure I had some part in guiding its future. I have had the good fortune to travel all over the world, and this experience has taught me that the South Island region is one of the most unique and beautiful spots on the planet. So, I feel it’s my duty to do whatever I can to help preserve its uniqueness, while at the same time develop it in a way that is respectful to the First Nations people who originally lived here; is welcoming to newcomers; is sustainable; and provides a stable foundation for young people to build a career and life around. South Island Prosperity Partnership has always taken a unifying and nurturing approach to try and do good things for the region. Through my work at Esri Canada, I recognize that the mapping technology we provide, and the valuable insights and collaboration it can support, could play an important part in strengthening the efforts of SIPP.
What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?
There are so many positive things about this area that it’s hard to pick “the one thing” required for a robust economic future. But we do have to be realistic and accept that we live in a unique location, which plays a huge role in forming our local culture and economic strategies. I think our economic future depends on supporting our existing economic drivers like government, technology and tourism, as well as focusing specific economic development efforts on the following areas.
First, we need to encourage a “buy local” mentality. I think the local agriculture sector can play a foundational role in our region’s economic success, so whatever we can do to connect and create awareness around the food producers in the region, the better the agri-community can survive and provide jobs for locals. Our thinking here needs to go beyond purely growing food, but also into processing it at a scale that fits the region. The thing about this sector is it can also support our tourism sector, and one doesn’t have to look very far to see some interesting combinations of working agri-operations and enjoyable tourism excursions.
Second, we need to accept that the South Island region is a destination of choice. We do not have as many large employers located here as compared to the bigger cities in the country. But, if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that people can and want to work remotely. Since we are a destination of choice, I believe that if we enable more people to choose the South Island region as their home office location, we can attract a tremendous brain trust to live and work here. This strategy would require some creative thinking to tackle housing affordability issues, but I believe there are ways to do that and plenty of smart people that have good ideas.
Third, in line with acknowledging our own strengths and weaknesses, we cannot ignore the importance of the blue economy in our economic future. The ocean industry is a natural fit for the South Island and offers massive economic potential for the region. The Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies is an exciting development and one that holds significant future potential for this area.
What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?
There is no one thing. People will automatically jump to the beauty of our physical location as the region’s main secret sauce, and while I believe this is a major factor, by itself, it isn’t enough. We need to take a more holistic approach that combines the benefits of the region and then present them to potential businesses or talent in a way that addresses their needs. We effectively need a South Island region sales department to understand prospects’ needs and then position what we have to offer in a way that addresses those needs. We have some significant advantages such as:
- Our region is part of a stable and safe country.
- We have a tremendous amount of talented and experienced people living here, and great academic institutions producing more smart people constantly.
- We have plenty of potential investors in the region.
- We have solid and reliable infrastructure.
What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?
Everywhere I look, I see potential for what we do at Esri Canada supporting the sustainable development of the South Island region. We apply a geographic approach to everything, which effectively acknowledges that anything can be assigned a location – basically things have to be or happen somewhere. Across the region, we have many customers in all sectors of the economy using our mapping technology to better understand their resources, operations and environment, and get the jobs they need to do, done. Where I get excited the most though is in our ability to help these organizations leverage their collective work through sharing and collaboration. Using the location of things as the unifying key, we see many opportunities to apply our technology with local organizations to combine their efforts so that they can have better insights and make better decisions. This work excites me because it can be directly applied to help the South Island create a desirable future.
What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?
If you are using maps to analyze information or support your organization, you likely are already using something developed or influenced by Esri technology. If so, then there is probably more you can easily access that would further help with the operations or decisions you need to make in your organization. When we show people the information that they can see and access, we regularly hear them say, “I didn’t know you could do that”. Most people don’t know what is available to them, so I would encourage people to reach out to us to explore what is already at their disposal.
What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?
Without question, it is encouraging collaboration and sharing between organizations so that they can leverage the good work each is doing to better accomplish the work they need to get done. We strongly believe in building a community where authoritative data is collected and maintained by subject matter experts, and made available, as appropriate, to others to amplify our collective efforts.
What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?
For sure the change in work patterns and the ability of people to work productively from home have opened up tremendous new avenues for how we plan and develop our future. As a region, province and country, we have proven we can pull together to get things done. It wasn’t perfect but working through the challenges of the pandemic has forced higher levels of communication and cooperation.
When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?
Vibrant and diverse. There’s no question that going forward, more people are going to want to make this region their home. As the world gets more and more accustomed to decentralized working arrangements, I foresee South Vancouver Island being populated by people who work not only for local companies, but also for others located all over the world. I see a revitalization in our urban centres as we combine residential with commercial zoning to increase density and create pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods—villages within villages. Along with this, I see a continuation of reduced commuting traffic and an increase in personal mobility options that are environmentally friendly and readily available. The South Island region is fantastic today. It is only going to get better.