The Harbour City’s strengths and the future of the overall economy were highlighted at Nanaimo 2020, an event organized by six local business women on Tuesday night.
Held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, Nanaimo 2020 featured a trade show with various Nanaimo-based employers showcasing their products, services and achievements. It also included two guest speakers, Kerry Slavens, managing editor of Douglas Magazine, and Ron Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
During her speech, Slavens said Nanaimo was in an excellent position for future growth in regards to attracting tech talent. She highlighted some of the major assets that the city has, including Vancouver Island University, the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, Startup Nanaimo and Innovation Island.
“You’ve got all the important stuff that attracts innovators and talent,” Slavens said, adding it is important to have “cross-pollination” between industries such as technology and the arts. She stressed the benefits of a community re-building its own individual identity, citing cities such as Portland, Reno, Nev., and Austin, Texas.
“No city should ever aspire to be Silicon Valley,” Slavens said. “They have their own unique eco-system and what works there won’t work for us. We can admire them, we can learn from them, but we need to tap into our own powerful resources to figure out what really makes us unique.”
Meanwhile, Burnett touched on broader topics such as innovation, collaboration, the demographic shift occurring in the workforce, and future challenges for the economy.
“The issue of the demographic shift is true and real,” Burnett said. “This [future] society will be a society that will have to support us [baby boomers] on very little money and that is unfair and it is actually wrong … one of our greatest weakness is that our people are aging more rapidly than our economy is growing and that we are going to be in a demographic crisis and that we need to think completely differently.”