During our third Dockside Dialogues session this past Wednesday, October 7th we learned about how local manufacturing sector shapes, and is shaped by Victoria and Vancouver Island. Our event was moderated by Mayor Lisa Helps and hosted in the showroom of local manufacturers’ Gabriel Ross in Rock Bay. Panelists included:
Ross Taylor – Fawcett Manufacturing
Paul Long – Anian
Toni Desrosiers – Abeego
Guy Ferguson – Viberg Boot
Sean Hoyne – Hoyne Brewing Co.
Through a series of questions posed by Mayor Helps, audience members, and fellow panelists a valuable conversation emerged about the Vancouver Island “Maker experience”. Even with their diverse products, markets and business histories, similar opportunities and challenges were identified.
When asked why they operate in Victoria and how the local Victoria “story” is a benefit to their business, especially on the international stage, lifestyle and customer base were highlighted. Together these two factors help create unique markets for the higher priced locally made products, both locally and abroad. Where Sean from Hoyne Brewing Co praised the willingness of industry players to network as a key driver of success for local craft breweries, Toni from Abeego, who now sells the majority of her product internationally spoke of how the Vancouver Island market served as a great testing ground when first piloting her beeswax food wraps.
Unfortunately the unique island context of Victoria is also significant challenge for local manufacturers due to increased costs for bringing in materials and shipping finished products. An interesting discussion also emerged on the need for enhanced social support, perhaps through a local manufacturing community similar to the industry networks that exist locally for tech players and entrepreneurs. Where Guy from Viberg Boot, who sell their products primarily online, spoke of wanting to build more of a local community connection, Ross from Fawcett MFG spoke enthusiastically of how he had recently made his first sale to China. Another challenge mentioned by panelists was that of customers who “want to buy local” but balk at the justifiably higher cost of locally produced goods.
During an opportunity for panelists to ask each other questions, advice was sought on best practices for online sales marketing and marketing as well as what experiences had been had with off the shelf accounting & inventory management solutions. In response to frustrations expressed by panelists, moderator Mayor Helps suggested building better contacts with Viatech, the non-profit representing the advanced technology sector, as a way of addressing such tech related challenges.
Responding to the need for increased support for local manufacturers, Helps spoke enthusiastically of City intentions to establish a new Victoria business & economic development office. The importance of organizing this office to a culture of ‘yes’ was highlighted by panelists, especially Anian who took a long time to work through the city regulatory system because as clothing & surfboard makers who also hold live events, they do not fit into any one business type mould. All told, wide ranging discussion on local manufacturing throughout the night allowed everyone, including the panelists to head home with increased awareness of how to connect with each other, Victoria city hall, and the larger community.