By Vern Faulkner
Saanich News – Weekend Edition
April 05, 2003

In a very short period of time, the Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) has not only fulfilled its mandate to provide top-quality workspace to emerging technology companies, but it has also done so in stellar fashion.

The park's emergence as a focal point for the region's growing high-tech economy is a concrete success story. Despite downturns in the stock market and a technology sector hit hard by failures of dot-com empires, the park has continued to experience strong growth.

The value of the recent private-public partnership between MDS Metro Labs, the University of Victoria and Genome B.C. cannot be understated and will prove to be a vital step in positioning the area as a leader in biotechnology research support.

The demand for space at the park will almost certainly grow. As it does, more high-tech industries will bring in more resources, hire more employees and (most importantly) give a valuable boost to the local economy. With a high-profile anchor tenant now in place, that growth is likely to increase at an exponential rate.

The park's current building will be half full once MDS Metro Labs completes its move in December.

Three more buildings are already on the drawing board for the Markham Road site that would increase the site's current capacity by 250 per cent. Given the industry's growth, construction should begin soon to ensure that sufficient space is available when this building is full.

It's important to remember that the technology park's genesis – and its transformation from a closed down health care facility into a leading light in the local economy – came as a result of $11 million put on the table by the previous NDP government to renovate the former Glendale Hospital.

But to give credit where credit is due, the current Liberal provincial government has also aided the growth of the technology park and a burgeoning high-tech industry by reducing personal income taxes and eliminating bureaucratic obstacles for corporations and venture capitalists.

This government has also argued that by supporting the 2010 Winter Olympics bid – to the tune of $600 million or more of public money – the province will in turn reap the rewards of increased business investment.

Using that reasoning, the government should leap at the chance to spend a relatively small sum of money to support a venture that has already proven to be highly successful in generating business growth and improving the Greater Victoria economy.

But the government, surprisingly, has balked at making any further financial commitments.

The success of the technology park – one of the few things that the NDP government spent money on that worked – is a prime example of what an influx of public money can do to achieve an intended goal.

The initial $11-million investment (combined with the Liberal government's changes to the tax structure and the reduction of corporate red tape) have proven to be a successful combination. It's a potent formula that can't be overlooked.

For that reason alone, the government should recognize the value of making further financial contributions to this local success story.