The Oak Bay Marine Group has been a fixture in Victoria since it was first established in 1962 by the late Bob Wright, a strong advocate for sport fishing.
Q&A with The Oak Bay Marine Group
Under Wright’s leadership the company grew from one marina to 25 resorts and tourism businesses in Victoria, the U.S. and the Bahamas. His legacy lives on at the Bob Wright Centre for Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Victoria.
Now, CEO Brook Castelsky is leading the company through transformation and growth, most recently undertaking the renovation and re-opening of their Ripley’s Believe It or Not! World of Adventure in Newport, Oregon.
This past year, the Oak Bay Marina became the first in the group to achieve eco-certification in Clean Marine BC, which helps boating facilities to reduce the impact of recreational boating on the Salish Sea and beyond through the implementation of improved environmental measures, including the reduction and containment of toxins, collection and disposal of various wastes, water and energy conservation, and habitat protection.
Oak Bay Marine Group has been a member of SIPP since 2018. Brook tells us why they’re invested in nurturing the economy that gave the business its start.
Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?
Giving and supporting the communities where we live and work is part of our DNA since the very beginning when Bob Wright founded Oak Bay Marine Group. The South Island Prosperity Partnership seemed like a perfect place for us to support the region, helping to create healthy economic growth, which creates jobs and opportunities for all of us who live here.
What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?
First and foremost, you need a plan. In addition, we need to recognize the interdependence of all of our economic sectors — Tourism, Technology, Education, and all the services and amenities that bind us together. We need to facilitate collaboration and make economic growth intentional as opposed to just sitting in this amazing place and hoping good things will happen.
What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?
Well, I don’t think it’s a secret. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have an Island spirit that drives and connects. We’re proud and we do great things.
We also have access to a vast number of highly qualified graduates from three great post-secondary institutions. The Southern Island is also home to Pearson College, one of 18 United World Colleges. We feel it is important to provide individuals with the opportunity to come to Vancouver Island to learn and experience all that we have to offer, so we recently organized sponsorship of a Bahamian student to attend Pearson College; we are helping in the development of quality talent not just trying to attract them.
What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?
We are embarking on an amazing new chapter in the Oak Bay Marine Groups story. We have a renewed and more focused priority to create unforgettable experiences along our stunning oceanfront settings.
What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?
Probably that we are bigger and more diversified than most people think. We employ over 125 people and own and operate four marinas, manufacture and market world-class boathouses, own two restaurants and an RV resort in Metchosin; as well as a boutique resort in the Bahamas, and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Newport, Oregon.
What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?
We face many challenges in our marine environment, so we are focused on protection and preservation of our local waters and marine wildlife. Leading this effort, our founder, Bob Wright, donated $11 million to the University of Victoria’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences to ensure students have facilities and scholarships to study our marine environment. We regularly support beach clean-ups and other marine conservation activities; we engage with Ocean Wise and donate to the Pacific Salmon Foundation to tackle a wide range of issues faced by wild Pacific salmon.
For us, it’s all about creating a sustainable future for this part of our community.
What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?
Without a doubt, it would be that people come first, profit comes second. If you don’t take care of the first, you don’t get the second. This pandemic hit a number of our businesses very hard; we had to close restaurants, our resort in the Bahamas and our tourist attraction in Oregon. So, we did everything we could to help our people through, especially in the Bahamas where we are the largest employer on the island (Long Island has a population of about 3,000 people). By supporting our people we were able to reopen efficiently and are doing very well in most areas.
When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?
With the pace of change that it is today, it is difficult to forecast, but our goal should be to have reduced our carbon footprint and create a strong and sustainable economy with more high-paying jobs to ensure that our children and their children can live in this beautiful place.