VIATEC recognized for COVID-19 response and action plan

Its work to help members during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic has earned the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council an award from the Technology Councils of North America.

VIATEC, which represents nearly 500 local companies with combined annual revenue in excess of $4 billion, was singled out during TECNA’s annual Innovation Awards last week for going above and beyond with its initial COVID response and plan of action.

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“This is a really big deal for us — we were up against the largest organization of our kind in Canada, Communitech out of Waterloo, and two state-wide organizations that have considerable resources and profile,” said VIATEC chief executive Dan Gunn. “To be selected from among them was a pleasant surprise.”

TECNA represents about 60 technology trade organizations that, in turn, represent more than 22,000 technology-related companies across North America.

Gunn estimates that between rent, staff time, donations and free services, the organization’s COVID response added up to about $250,000. But what set them apart was the suite of things they put together early in the COVID-19 outbreak.

They immediately offered to defer membership dues, make the job board free for members and waive rent for early-stage companies that are based at VIATEC’s 777 Fort St. headquarters. “It was a hit to revenue, but it was an investment we wanted to make to help our members and companies deal with all the uncertainty they were facing,” said Gunn.

The organization also established a constantly updating online resource centre with details of the various aid programs being offered, including links to more information.

“We tried to distill it down to make it available for members to quickly understand the programs that may be available to them and how to get access to them,” he added.

VIATEC also created a return-to-office handbook that offered a checklist to ensure companies were returning to work safely, while its foundation donated $10,000 to the Rapid Relief Fund in Victoria and supported a community garden established for families in need to grow their own food.

Gunn said they also facilitated a number of virtual workshops, and the chief executive breakfast club met more often to compare notes on best practices and ways to get through the pandemic.

Gunn said only a few members actually took them up on the offer to defer membership dues, and they can boast a 95 per cent membership renewal.

VIATEC has also launched what it calls a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion workshop series. The program is being offered for free to anyone, regardless of location or sector.

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