Total annual revenues for Victoria's high-tech community are at $1.95 billion and the total economic impact of the sector is in excess of $2.6 billion, according to a new economic-impact study to be released today.

The study, to be unveiled at Island Tech 2009, a showcase for the sector at the Victoria Conference Centre's Crystal Gardens, was undertaken over the last two years and its findings are considered very conservative, according to Dan Gunn, executive director of the Victoria Advanced Technology Council.

"We wanted to make sure it was a strongly defendable number," he said. "But in no way do we want, nor do we need to exaggerate the size or impact of the sector."

Two years ago, VIATeC made a splash at its annual awards dinner when it revealed the industry boasted $1.7 billion in revenues, catching many in the $1.2-billion tourism industry by surprise as that had long been considered the city's largest private industry.

The new findings are also likely to raise an eyebrow or two, which Gunn admits is part of the idea.

"By doing a well-constructed and conservative study, it shows people the size and impact of a sector that often goes unseen by the general public," he said. He noted it could result in more people considering careers in technology, investments in technology companies or just a general appreciation of the sector locally and abroad.

It's even more conservative, he says, considering many of the numbers the research team used were gathered after the economic downturn wreaked havoc globally.

"Because our estimates are conservative and the respondents were quite optimistic about the remainder of 2009 and next year, we're confident that number will continue to grow," he said.

Gunn said the study didn't reveal anything the sector didn't already know, but there are other phases of the research still to come that could prove handy for the industry.

The research, being done by PhD students at UBC, will also look at compensation, allowing companies to compare how they attract and retain staff. There will also be a study undertaken of other high-tech communities to determine what Victoria has to do in order to maintain its competitiveness when it comes to attracting high-tech talent.

The results of the economic-impact study are likely to be the buzz flying through Island Tech today.

It's the fourth such showcase — designed to raise awareness of the size, influence and impact of the local tech sector — that in the past has drawn between 2,500 and 3,200 people through the conference centre.

This year, in addition to seminars on high-tech management and investment, a showcase of more than 40 companies, schools and agencies, there will be eight speakers delivering engaging "out of the box" talks on various topics that affect the industry.

Island Tech 2009 starts at 8 a.m. with an invitation-only VIP reception before opening to the public at 10 a.m. for a day's worth of talks and seminars at the Crystal Garden.

aduffy@tc.canwest.com