Mayor Lisa Helps: A plan to make Victoria future-ready

A commentary by the mayor of Victoria.

Today, the City of Victoria is releasing Victoria 3.0, an economic action plan that accompanies the city’s Official Community Plan to 2041. It’s a long-term plan and vision for a sustainable, growing city that will create high-value jobs now and for the future. The vision of Victoria 3.0 is that, as the capital city, Victoria is future-ready and globally fluent. We use our status as a small powerhouse to build a high-value economy that meets our needs now and anticipates the future.

This action plan was developed based on the input of residents and business owners who participated in the fall economic roundtable sessions hosted by myself and city staff. And it has been shaped by the latest research and thinking in 21st-century city-building and economics.

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We are making this plan now in order to:

• Stimulate and support innovation.

• Build on the economic stability offered by our large public-sector employment base.

• Diversify our economy.

• Respond to the big changes that will have an impact on sustainable economic growth, including. automation and climate change.

What if we told, and sold, a compelling story of Victoria’s high-tech sector nationally and globally? What if we had a large area of our downtown dedicated to innovation and we were solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, creating high-value jobs at the same time?

What if we were globally recognized for pioneering solutions in the ocean and marine sector? What if we turned the Victoria Conference Centre into a facility that can hold more and larger conferences and also developed its international reputation?

And what if by 2030, everyone working in Victoria was making a living wage, not because this was mandated by any level of government, but because of an increase in high-value jobs and a strong, inclusive high-value economy.

Victoria 3.0 answers these questions with a resounding “Yes!” and with a series of clear actions that the city and its partners will undertake over the next two decades to achieve these objectives.

A high-value economy has a diversity of household-sustaining jobs available in a range of sectors, and the skills and training available for those jobs to be filled. It’s an innovative economy that develops solutions to pressing local and global challenges, sells these solutions globally and brings the money back to Victoria.

Developing this kind of economy will enable Victoria companies to attract talent from around the world to fill the high-value jobs being created, drawing a wealth of experience and diversity to the city.

Victoria 3.0 also takes seriously the reality of our existing small businesses. We heard from roundtable participants that some of our small retail businesses and restaurants have begun to struggle.

In response, a whole section of the plan is dedicated to addressing their needs — from mitigating the impacts of city construction projects on business operations, to creating a Downtown Ambassador program to increase a sense of safety and welcome in the downtown for all.

Small businesses are key to providing the amenity-rich lifestyle that will help Victoria to attract and retain the workforce of the future.

In addition to actions that the city can take to continue to support small business, Victoria 3.0 lays out a few big moves.

One is to establish an Innovation District in the north end of downtown. An Innovation District is a hub of cross-sector collaboration, a place where ideas are commercialized (turned into products and services), and where new high-value jobs are created. The vision of the Innovation District is to honour the current industrial land uses and to build for the 22nd century.

A second is to create an Ocean Futures Cluster. A significant and under-realized opportunity for Victoria is our location as a coastal and island community on the Pacific Ocean. Victoria is close to the shipping gateway to Asia-Pacific markets and a critical transit point to the Arctic Ocean.

The Ocean Futures Cluster and Marine Innovation Hub takes advantage of our geographic location and combines the region’s significant and emerging strengths in marine and maritime industries, ocean science, technology and environmental innovation. This will enhance the competitiveness of our region and of British Columbia in the global marketplace.

Taken together, these big moves and others lay the groundwork for a strong, future-focused economy in the city and in the region. If you’d like to learn more and provide input on the plan by Jan. 30, please head to victoria.ca/prosperity.

Victoria 3.0 is the work of many hands. And it will take many more hands, working together, to bring this plan to life over the next two decades.

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