By Vern Faulkner
Saanich News
October 9, 2002

Six months after a glitzy multimedia presentation kicked off the official opening of the Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP), tenants of the cutting-edge facility couldn't be happier. 

While tenancy rates aren't quite what the landlord – the BCBC – had anticipated, there are signs that the tech park is living up to the hype and promise that preceded its opening. 

About a quarter of the park is now occupied (1,800 square meters has been leased in the last six months)– and BCBC has set a target of having half of the building filled up by next spring. 

The current tenants are delighted to be operating in the brand new facility, which has won accolades and some prestigious awards for its environmentally friendly design. 

As one of the three co-owners and directors of E-Traffic solutions, a company specializing in online business training, John Juricic is stunned that his company's productivity levels have increased by 30 per cent since taking occupancy in April. 

In particular Juricic cites the increase in workspace and the park's positive environment – including its ample walking trails, in-house basketball court and better high-tech new lighting – key reasons for his company's recent prosperity. 

"We were surprised how that enhanced our productivity levels. People have their space. They can focus. The result has been tremendous," he enthuses. 

According to Juricic, corporate executives are just beginning to realize the benefits that can be reaped by seeking out ergonomic work environments that are situated in natural surroundings and have plenty of recreational opportunities. 

E-Traffic's jump in production, he insists, is adequate proof that creating a good environment for employees is linked to market competitiveness. 

"It's very much like a university environment out here. There's an academic feel to it. We all knew these things would help. We just didn't realize how much of an impact there would be," he observes. 

Another reason for the jump in E-Traffic productivity, says Juricic, has been the opportunities to network with other tenants at the tech park and new business that BCBC sends the company's way. 

"We had no idea that they would network us, talk about us, and send us so much business," says Juricic of BCBC. 

E-traffic will be hiring new employees to meet the demand for business. 

"We probably need to double our size in the next six months," Juricic notes, adding that the company's growth rate "could be higher and that explosion is because we're able to produce quality product, which is a combination of good productivity and satisfied staff." 

Joji Ishikawa is the general manager of Omega Biotech, another VITP tenant. He agrees that the new work environment -and particularly the tech park's commitment to environmental sustainability – has been good for his company. 

"There was a function a couple of weeks ago and we were chatting about the park showing it to a lot of people from outside (the province). We got a lot of good feedback," says Ishikawa. 

Joe van Belleghem, who was VITP project consultant, has worked tirelessly to promote the tech park and has today he's also championing its tenants. 

"We're a networking liaison," van Belleghem says. "We're helping the companies that are in here and helping them grow." 

Belleghem is also happy with impact the tech park has had. 

"By designing the building as 'green' we thought the productivity of the workforce would increase," says van Belleghem. 

As for the occupancy rate, van Belleghem remains optimistic. "We're not too far behind our original projection," he says. "We're quite happy that despite the decline in the tech sector Victoria is growing quite well," he says.

Executives of other VITP-based companies are also looking positively on the future.

Peter Baillie, CEO of Epic Biosonics, firmly believes the Capital Region is positioning itself to become a global force in the technology sector.

"If you look back in five years time, you'll look at (the slowdown) as a blip. In three years, most of the tech park will be rented out," he says.

"If we get a big player established in Victoria or a strong turnaround in the economy … if that starts to materialize, you'll see the take-up happen very quickly. (VITP) space will be very much in demand."

Epic Biosonics currently leases the greatest amount of space in the tech park and the company expects to expand by 2005.

Richard Glickman, chair and CEO of Aspreva Pharmaceuticals, says the company highlights the tech park's cutting-edge image in its international marketing campaign. Likewise, he says the vast amenities of the building, along with the natural charm of the Capital Region, help VITP companies recruit talented employees.

"It allows the company to present itself in an environment that is consistent with what their expectations would be," he reasons, it is the kind of facility where people would be comfortable in, particularly if you're recruiting them from high-tech centers in the (United) States."