Behind hangar doors and unassuming entrances, there are millions of dollars changing hands between Peninsula-based industries and innovative businesses.
For the most part, this activity in industrial manufacturing, tourism and fair trade goes about its business behind the scenes. Yet it’s scope and impact and its workers are significant contributors to the economic well-being of Sidney and the Peninsula.
Highlighting a small group of successful industries and businesses was the focus of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Tour of Industry on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Chamber members, local politicians and media boarded a Wilson’s bus and toured seven workplaces: VIH Aviation Group, Viking Air, Straitline Precision Industries, the Victoria Airport Authority, Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, Questar Tangent Corp. and Level Ground Trading.
Many people on the tour expressed amazement at just what these companies are doing, their level of innovation and investment and the technology they are using to get the job done.
While much of their activity is geared towards the international marketplace, these operations have a local impact in terms of employment and services — and many are part of an ongoing call for more workplace housing in the Peninsula.
“There’s a common theme,” noted Chamber tour organizer Wendy Everson. “These businesses are here because they want to be. They need real support, by way of affordable housing and better infrastructure.”
A survey of the owners of the tour businesses revealed their large work forces generally need better access to housing, food services, transportation and even medical service.
Viking air, for example, has a workforce of some 400 people at their site at the Victoria Airport. When they all let out for lunch, said marketing manager Angie Murray, they have a hard time finding enough space in local eateries — competing for tables with other larger businesses that get out at the same time.
Among other matters, having enough transit services to their part of the airport grounds is an ongoing concern.
Everson stated after the tour that these lessons learned “clearly reinforced the ongoing commitment of the (Chamber) to its members.”
Ian Brown, a member of the chamber’s economic development committee, said to ensure these operations remain successful, the Peninsula needs to be open to doing more to help them stay.
“If we can’t help them with their substantial challenges,” he explained, “they might go away.”
He added the chamber’s role is to shine a light on these issues for their members, noting the presence on the tour of quite a few local decision-makers.
The challenges faced by these companies, it was noted, stem from their overall success. Expansion and growth is being experienced by all of them to some degree, with their work bringing in millions of dollars worth in investment and worker payroll.
While most owners and spokespeople stated they love being on the Peninsula, close to home, and remain committed to that, the growth they are experiencing has them looking to move — some have found space in the area, others are considering their options.
Call them victims of their own success, these businesses are looking to the future and are finding opportunities to stay on the Peninsula.
The Chamber promises more tours in the future.