Vancouver region using Olympics to lure potential business investors
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Metropolitan Vancouver is hoping the glamour of the Olympics will help lure investment dollars to the region.
Nine Vancouver-area municipalities, including the city itself, have banded together to use the 2010 Olympic Games to attract companies with plans to relocate or expand their business.
A hundred executives from at least 50 and as many as 70 small-and medium-sized firms will be invited to the city during the 2010 Winter Games for four days of business meetings and access to Olympic events.
The hope is that the afterglow of the Games will give Metro Vancouver an edge when corporate decision-makers later select where they want to invest.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called the Olympics "the most powerful opportunity that this region will have in our lifetime to brand ourselves to the world and to position Metro Vancouver on the international business stage."
"We are in an era where we compete with city-regions around the world, many of whom are well organized and well-armed with resources," Robertson said. "However, they don't have the 2010 Winter Olympics."
More than half the funding for the $1.5-million initiative comes from the federal government's Western Economic Diversification Agency.
The mayors could not say which firms are on the guest list. Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the list of firms to be invited won't be finalized for a month or two but he expects the program to be fully subscribed.
Organizers say the invitees are being carefully screened to ensure they're seriously considering investing in the region and not just taking advantage of an Olympic junket.
"We've got to make sure they have a direct connection to a B.C. business, a B.C. trade organization or a direct link to investment that's now taking place in B.C.," said Robertson.
Invitees will have to pay for their own flights but their accommodation and entry into Olympic events will be covered by the program. That doesn't extend to any family members they bring along.
Robertson said it's not clear yet which Olympic events the visitors will get to attend because the travel timetables have not been finalized.
The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee has assured access to tickets for Metro Vancouver Commerce, he said.
"We also have rights to tickets as municipalities, as host cities of the Games," said Robertson.
Vancouver's mayor said there's no set goal for the amount of investment the program is expected to generate. The hope, based on a similar program tied to the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, is that more than half the invited companies follow through with investment, though the results could take years, Robertson said.
The initiative targets a range of sectors, from the environmental technologies, new media and digital gaming, to aerospace, biotech, renewable energy, agri-business and service industries.
In addition to Metro Vancouver Commerce's founders, Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey, participants include New Westminster, Port Moody, Coquitlam, North Vancouver city and district, and Maple Ridge.
Burnaby, on Vancouver's eastern boundary, turned down participation.
Acting Mayor Sav Dhaliwal said Burnaby will focus on its own economic-development program.
The city does see value in a regional approach to attracting business, he said.
"But we do not believe that over a 10-day to 15-day period, when everything else is also taking people's attention, people who are coming here to watch the Olympics are really going to be motivated and focused on doing some business," said Dhaliwal.