Island Economic Report slated for Summit in October

Susan Mowbray
Dirk Heydemann photo

Senior Economist Susan Mowbray, partner at MNP, will highlight key findings of the 8th Annual of the Island Economic Report in her presentation at the October 26 and 27 Economic Summit.

The report is an annual reading of the condition of Vancouver Island’s economy, a powerful tool widely used by public and private sector decision-makers to help make informed choices. It has been deemed essential reading for anyone serious about business on Vancouver Island. 

Recently, VIEA published VI Trendlines, a multi-part companion series to the State of the Island Economic Report. Prepared by MNP and funded in part by Island Coastal Economic Trust, the series provided insights on recent population growth, housing, labour and employment and key industries. 

Did you know the population on Vancouver Island grew by more than 89,000 people from 2014 to 2021? To put this into perspective, population growth on Vancouver Island resulted in the addition of enough people to populate a city the size of Nanaimo. As well, the proportion of Islanders over the age of 50 declined from 59% to 35%. 

Attend the Summit to learn more about Vancouver Island economic trends and receive your free digital copy (value $195) of this one-of-a-kind Economic Report. 

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Sperber heads Vancouver Island Economic Alliance

VIEA’s New Leader brings entrepreneurial and community economic development experience to the role

Julie Sperber has been named the new President and CEO of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, replacing George Hanson who is retiring. 

“As an experienced leader and community connector Julie brings passion, ability to leverage opportunities, and knowledge of Vancouver Island and how it works within the broader economy.  Further, Julie’s ability to build relationships and identify collaborative partnerships benefiting regional business and economic diversification make her an excellent choice for President and CEO of VIEA. The Board looks forward to working with Julie and are confident that VIEA is in very good hands as we continue to work towards supporting a diversified and resilient Island economy well into the future,” said Shannon Baikie, VIEA Board Chair.

A successful entrepreneur and community economic development leader, Julie is presently Executive Director of the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce where she has served for more than four years. Her contributions there have provided entrepreneurs and community organizations to grow their capacity, through guiding successful funding, skills training and investment opportunities. She is an innovative thinker and can see pieces of a puzzle fitting together to grow opportunity through partnership. As a key community connector her leadership is sought out for initiatives and projects for the island. 

“I am thrilled to be joining VIEA and am excited to build upon the organization’s success. I look forward to working with George and the VIEA Board of Directors during the transition period to build a plan that continues to support the regional economy for generations to come," said Sperber.

Julie has worked internationally in the hospitality industry and has held management roles in the non-profit, manufacturing and hospitality sectors. She has also been a studio-based artist and teacher, with a retail gallery and workshop both in Victoria and on Gabriola Island. She has established herself as a successful entrepreneur, having built three businesses as owner/operator, which have all had further success. 

In 2015, Julie transitioned to working for non-profit organizations with a focus on economic development, which combined her management and entrepreneurial experience with her passion for contributing positive impacts to her community. Julie has always been an active member in the communities she has lived and has been a volunteer and board member for numerous organizations over the past 20 years. 

As VIEA’s next leader, Julie brings a diverse skill set and work experience to the role. As a natural community connector, she is able engage diverse stakeholders to form collaborative partnerships for growth and development. She is passionate about supporting regional economies that reflect the unique values, strengths and challenges that exist in each place. 

Julie will work closely with Hanson, who will remain with the organization until at least December 2022 to facilitate a smooth transition of leadership, maintain momentum on key initiatives, and ensure a successful 16th annual State of the Island Economic Summit, to be held in person at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo, October 26 and 27. 

“I have had the pleasure of working with Julie over several years and she has the interpersonal skills and commitment to collaboration necessary to achieve positive outcomes in these transformative times. VIEA’s cadre of dedicated members and volunteers that help drive initiatives like the Economic SummitEconomic ReportFTZVIWood Industries Forum, and Island Good brand appreciate how fortunate Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are to have this unique organization taking action to enhance the vitality of our economy. Julie is well-positioned to guide these actions into the future with pragmatism and imagination,” said  Hanson.

For more information, contact Diana Jolly, Executive Assistant, VIEA

How have key industries performed?

220424 – TOURISM...Favourable exchange rates and strong global economic conditions resulted in the addition of 4,000 jobs in tourism related sectors (e.g., hospitality, recreation) between 2014 and 2019.1Travel restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 led to significant reductions in the number of visitors to Vancouver Island, and by the end of 2021 employment in tourism related sectors had fallen by over 3,000.

FORESTRY...Fibre supply constraints have reduced annual harvest volumes on Vancouver Island by approximately 10 percent since 2014 and resulted in the closure of one large mill and several small operations.

The forest sector has also faced a number of other challenges. Expiry of the softwood lumber agreement between Canada and US in October 2015 resulted in the imposition of tariffs on imports of Canadian wood products the following year. There was also an eight-month strike at Western Forest Products that shutdown production. The strike ended in February 2020 and the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions delayed the restart of production by several months.

The net result has been a decline in employment in harvesting and manufacturing on Vancouver Island of approximately 2,900 between 2014 and 2021.2

AQUACULTURE...Aquaculture production on Vancouver Island was relatively stable between 2014 and 2021. However, the closure of fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago in 2021 have resulted in reductions in employment and changes to the tenure rules that are expected to come into effect in June 2022 may lead to the closure of processing facilities.

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION...Between 2014 and 2019 the number of international students studying on Vancouver Island was relatively stable with modest year-to-year fluctuations. Classes were delivered virtually between April 2020 and August 2021 which meant that many international students remained in their home countries. The result was a reduction in economic spin-offs associated with spending by students.

OTHER...There were modest increases in manufacturing related to food and beverages and transportation equipment. Tech and film production also showed signs of increased activity between 2018 and 2021

1Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, Custom Tabulation


Hanson to retire as head of Economic Alliance

George Hansom - March 17, 2022

George Hanson has announced his decision to retire in 2022 as President & Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA). 

During George’s 11-year tenure, he was responsible for several notable achievements for VIEA, the only regional, non-government, non-profit, economic development organization of its kind in British Columbia. These include growing the annual ‘State of the Island’ Economic Summit to become the must-attend event for leaders across the Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands region, launching the annual ‘State of the Island’ Economic Report, establishing the successful Island Good product brand, facilitating the Island Wood Industries initiative, and achieving Foreign Trade Zone designation for the Vancouver Island region. His guidance and vision leading the organization has been instrumental in positioning VIEA as a key collaborator towards long-lasting regional economic development, diversification and resilience in the region. 

“George’s work leading VIEA has been pivotal in helping build and cement strong partnerships across our region in creative, flexible and personalized ways for more than a decade,” says VIEA Board Chair Shannon Baikie. “We are grateful for all he has done for VIEA and for our region. He is leaving behind a lasting legacy within the organization and throughout the Island region.”

“The Island region is special and deserves our freshest and greatest ideas. I have welcomed the challenge to develop and manage initiatives and foster relationships towards a regional economy that is balanced, sustainable and overflowing with vitality,” says Hanson. “VIEA successes are largely attributable to a community of smart, capable, progressive volunteers with whom I have been privileged to work, including our board directors, members, committees, partners, Island Good licensees, contractors and sponsors.”

“The Island region is special and deserves our freshest and greatest ideas. I have welcomed the challenge to develop and manage initiatives and foster relationships towards a regional economy that is balanced, sustainable and overflowing with vitality,” says Hanson. “VIEA successes are largely attributable to a community of smart, capable, progressive volunteers with whom I have been privileged to work, including our board directors, members, committees, partners, Island Good licensees, contractors and sponsors.”

Hanson’s retirement offers the opportunity for a new leader to step into a position with tremendous prospects for enabling economic growth in the Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands economy. VIEA’s board of directors is initiating a search for a new President and CEO who is a visionary community builder and skilled communicator with deep relationships with First Nations, coastal communities, government, business, and education. Hanson will remain in place until a successor is hired and will work with the new President and CEO over a transition period.

“With new leadership providing fresh perspective and inspiration, VIEA will help lead the way as the region’s needs and opportunities rapidly evolve,” added Hanson. “The challenges are real. The opportunities are enormous. There is no time to waste.”

The posting opens on March 17, 2022.

For all inquiries on the position and application process, please contact Dan Hurley, Principal, Hurley Martin Group, at