The ‘Island Good’ Initiative Brings Island Products And The Companies Who Make Them To The Forefront
NANAIMO – Founded in 2006 as an island-wide economic development organization, the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) has grown into a force for local businesses, highlighting goods and services Islanders produce. The only regional, non-government, non-profit, economic development organization in Canada, its mandate is to support a vital, sustainable economy for Vancouver Island and its Gulf Island counterparts.
Thus was born Island Good, a product brand created to visually mark island-made products, with the goal of increasing sales and market share amongst members both public, private and First Nations.
George Hanson, VIEA President, explains, “After our economic report in 2015, we learned the island economy was eighty per cent services, and only twenty per cent goods. We felt this was unsustainable, and began working on strengthening goods production locally, and making them easier to identify. We tested our Island Good pilot program in 2018 in the food and beverage category, working with four participating grocers.”
“Measuring same store, same month sales of island products and comparing 2017 sales with 2018 in forty-five grocery stores for six months, Island Good achieved a 16.4 per cent average increase in sales. We submitted our trademark and license the brand to anyone producing island products. From potatoes to airplane parts, they can use Island Good to increase sales and market share.”
In this time of economic uncertainty with COVID-19, VIEA seeks to remind Islanders how important a strong base of local food and goods production is; Island Good offers consumers a means to buy homegrown, leading to greater investment and more island jobs, particularly important in trying times.
“We’ve calculated a one per cent increase of local food products results in fifty new jobs,“ says George on the importance of supporting the island economy.
Not qualified for government support as a non-profit, VIEA rely on support from island companies’ general populace. Through investment in community, VIEA has created a network of goodwill by actively supporting licensees through a variety of channels, particularly social media. “The more the brand is used and seen, the more interest it generates,” elaborates George. ”Increasingly, goods producers are discovering the value of licensing the Island Good brand.”
Key to building this support is engaging island stakeholders via a bold approach to economic vitality, developing high-leverage initiatives to improve the overall business climate for the widest number of communities possible. The annual VIEA Economic Summit brings together decision-makers from a number of sectors all over the island to collaborate, solve problems and increase awareness of island goods and services.
The Foreign Trade Zone, Vancouver Island (FTZVI), the only regional, non-government FTZ in Canada, focuses on providing a competitive advantage for island exporters, helping VIEA bolster local producers and give them the best chance in global markets.
This level of support, from offering access to economic data via annual economic reports, to producing multiple business cases designed to attract investment, has paid off. “Our 2018 business case for seaweed aquaculture was picked up by investors, who formed Cascadia Seaweed, developing a one-billion-dollar industry on Vancouver Island. Our wood industries committee is in the midst of a two-year pilot funded by the provincial government focused on waste wood recovery and forest fire mitigation.”
The Island Good brand is designed to grow, from retail stores and cosmetics, to fabricated micro-buildings and clothes, with a goal to have every product island-made branded so locals and visitors can buy into the island economy.
Concludes George, “We believe long-term, Island Good will attract investment in our production economy here, while developing a strong export market. Ultimately, this will create everything from food security to economic sustainability. These are our ultimate objectives.”