City, tourism and tech sectors on San Francisco trade mission

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy

Victoria is reaching across the border to strengthen the city’s economy.

This weekend, a 31-person trade mission led by Mayor Lisa Helps will be in San Francisco to showcase Victoria companies, meet potential clients, promote Victoria as a destination and work on academic partnerships to create research opportunities.

The team includes B.C. Technology Minister Amrik Virk and representatives from the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC), Greater Victoria Development Agency, Tourism Victoria and the post-secondary education sector.

The budget for the trip is $34,000, with the city’s share $5,000.

“We’re hoping to highlight the already strong connections between Victoria and San Francisco,” said Helps, noting high-tech and tourism have for years been closely tied to the Bay area.

But Helps is also going recruiting. Building on a provincial initiative that saw a B.C. booth at the Calgary Stampede imploring former residents to come home, Helps said they will be taking a come-back-to-Victoria message to Canadian workers and entrepreneurs in the area.

“We will be saying for those of you who are Canadian and living down there come home and bring your business back to Victoria, to British Columbia,” Helps said.

She will also be showing off the city’s draft economic action plan, and hopes the plan to establish a business hub at City Hall will show potential businesses, investors or start-ups that the city is committed to helping business grow.

The city’s high-tech industry sees the trip as a chance to cement relationships and reach out to those who missed the recent Experience Tectoria event.

“We are using this trip as a way to connect with those who couldn’t make it this year to open their eyes to the investment and partnership opportunities in Victoria’s tech sector with the aim to bring them to the city in the coming year to meet local entrepreneurs and see first hand the innovation in our tech sector,” said VIATEC's Executive Director, Dan Gunn.

Paul Nursey, chief executive of Tourism Victoria, said they saved up sales calls for this trip.

“We have lots of reason to go to San Francisco, primarily for sales meetings,” he said. His group will meet with convention bookers and meeting planners by day and join the trade mission for functions in the evening.

Nursey said he’s selective about trade missions as they require discipline and strong focus to have any kind of success.

“This one made a lot of sense for us,” he said. “San Francisco is a very important source market.”

Gunn agrees, noting “trade missions are hard to get right.”

“We’ve learned over the years to set aside all the time required to support the planned agenda while hustling to fill all remaining gaps with one-on-one relationship building meetings to maximize on the opportunity,” he said. “Trade missions offer unique benefits due the many connections a large group can bring when they all go to the same place at the same time.”

During the visit, Helps will host a luncheon and expects to meet with representatives from Apple, tech campus Rocketspace, venture capital firm Blumberg Capital, and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

There is also a reception for 80 influential Bay area business people that will feature discussions with Jeff Mallett, co-founder of Yahoo, and James DeGreef, co-founder of GenoLogics Life Sciences Software and chief executive of ChatterBlock.

The trade mission team will get together this fall to outline results of the trip.