Sooke council backs new economic development agency

Sooke became the seventh municipality to hop onboard the South Vancouver Island Economic Development Agency

Sooke became the seventh municipality to hop onboard a new regional economic agency on Monday, potentially opening some big doors for the district region-wide.

The newly formed South Vancouver Island Economic Development Agency is expected to receive funding from all 13 Greater Victoria municipalities.

The idea met with warm support from majority of council, including Mayor Maja Tait, who pointed out the sole importance of keeping Sooke’s residents employed, as more than 60 percent of Sooke’s workforce commute to other parts of the region anyway.

Despite a successful vote, there was still some initial reticence from council, mostly due to concerns of simply “selling the region” and Sooke’s interests becoming lost in the masses.

Dan Dagg, SVIEDA’s acting chair, responded to council by saying the idea here is to collaborate as a region, not assimilate and consume individual regions.

“We have no intention to replace the [Sooke Region] Chamber of Commerce. We’re going to help it achieve its potential,” Dagg said. “What you want to think about is leveraging dollars, and what you would be able to do with dollars you have now versus what we can do as a larger community.”

As such, SVIEDA will take the money and lever it into $9 million worth of economic development activity over a five year period, doing it municipality by municipality.

The existing Greater Victoria Economic Development Agency is associated with the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and receives funding from Victoria, Saanich and other groups.

Coun. Rick Kasper, who supported the idea from the beginning, hopes the new economic plan can bring into perspective what this region offers beyond its own borders, housing in particular.

“I want to make sure our community gets sold as a package with things that we want to be selling,” Kasper said.

The economic model is based on one vote per municipality, so even though Sooke is smaller than Victoria, it will still get one vote just like everybody else to drive the strategic direction of the organization.