A tour last week gave local decision makers an opportunity to learn more about the successes and challenges of local businesses on the Saanich Peninsula.
The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Tour of Industry saw some 60 people representing various organizations including local municipalities, businesses and organizations, visit five local businesses.
For many participants, the tour was eye-opening. “That’s probably the main reason why we started this tour,” said Denny Warner, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. “People had no idea what the secret kind of things were out there. So many of their clients are not here on the Peninsula or even on the Island, and yet, they are providing these really good jobs.”
Divided into two teams, the tour participants visited Professional Components, Pronautic, Sure Grip, Specific Mechanical Systems and Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery and Twa Dogs Brewing over the course of the day. Professional Components supplies – among other products – suspension systems; Pronautic manufactures wooden interiors for marine and home interiors; Sure Grip Control builds joysticks, handles and electrical components in mobile hydraulics and industrial applications; Specific Mechanical builds brewing and distilling systems for craft beer and spirit industries; and Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery and Twa Dogs Brewing brews single malt whiskies and beer.
The tour included a lunch stop at Church and State Wines, where John Wilson, president, chief executive and principal owner of Wilson’s Group of Companies discussed the history of the business, while spelling out future plans, which include dinner cruises around Victoria.
Information provided before and during the tour itself reveals that the majority of companies visited have deep international ties. For example, 75 per cent of Professional Components’ customers either reside in the United States or other countries. Sure Grip’s share of customers beyond Canada is 70 per cent, while Specific Mechanical Systems’ share is 65 per cent. To further underscore this point, consider the marine suspension system that Professional Components sells under its Shockwave Seats division. Its customers include governments around the world, that source seats for various types of marine vessels, including vessels used by highly trained military specialists, from the company’s Sidney location. Specific Mechanical Systems, meanwhile, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of brewing equipment for the growing craft brewing industry.
This international orientation places a premium on connectivity to foreign markets and the tour heard concerns about the costs and mechanics of shipping off Vancouver Island. The supplied background information also echoed familiar concerns about high real estate costs and local transit issues.
Warner said the tour offers businesses the opportunity to air those concerns. “We also tell them [participating businesses] ahead of time, this is your opportunity to talk about some of the challenges that you are facing, because this is the group of people to do in front of, because they have got the connections and can make things happen,” she said.
Tour members also heard about the advantages of the region, including the region’s strong manufacturing base, availability of space, and access to an international airport. Above all, participating businesses pointed towards the region’s quality of life as one of the central reasons for doing business on the Saanich Peninsula.
“Despite the challenges that are inherent in operating from an island, there are still many areas, where these companies are excelling against the competition,” said Warner. “So whatever it is, they are figuring out ways to rise above these challenges. A lot of them are not necessarily going to be world performers, but they have figured out their own niche to the extent that they are providing really good jobs and good livelihoods for their owners, and they are still able to live in areas that provide the quality of life that they enjoy.”
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