Written by Andrew Duffy

In sync with the global economic downturn, dark clouds have rumbled over most of this region's economic drivers, but one industry believes it may just be creeping out from under the shadows.

During an impromptu roundtable session with a group of high-tech executives this week, the impression is the growing industry is doing more than simply weathering the storm raging around it.

Indeed, there's a sense that despite the troubles faced by forestry, mining and the uncertainty hanging over the tourism industry, high-tech continues its growth curve.

According to those around the table, that comes down to the makeup of the industry and lessons learned along the way.

"Several things protected us going into this recession; 2000 was one of them," said Dan Gunn, executive director of the Victoria Advanced Technology Council referring to the dot-com meltdown. "Companies learned how not to get too far ahead of themselves."

According to Gunn, local companies learned how to run lean and mean as a result, and coupled with the low dollar offering a break for companies selling outside of Canada and the labour market loosening up provide less expensive manpower, the industry is reaping some reward.

"Things are OK right now," said an admittedly cautious Craig Thomson, CEO of Beanstream. "I think [the recession] has taken companies down a peg. We're doing OK right now, but things can turn quickly."

By Thomson's count, it's the third downturn the high-tech industry has had to deal with in the last 15 years.

The local industry currently boasts more than 850 companies employing 12,600 people and bringing in an estimated $1.7 billion annually.

One of the main reasons for the continued strength of the industry, according to Rob Bennett, COO of Simation Global Technology, is the industry takes care of its own.

"No one really competes with each other in this marketplace and as a result people are very open about their successes and failures," he said.

"It also creates a real spirit of community and sharing between organizations and that is that really helping to grow this sector at a faster rate than most."

By trial and error, the industry has established a patchwork infrastructure to help companies overcome obstacles.

Though Victoria suffers from an absence of meaningful venture capital and professional services geared to high-tech, the industry shares contacts and experiences.

"A lot of businesses would shrivel up and die if they didn't have the resources of other people willing to put them in touch with the services and people that helped them over a hump or deal with a problem," said Gunn.

And that goes for newcomers as well.

Alex Glassey, CEO of Projjex, set up shop in Victoria 11 months ago and found the community took him in right away.

"There's an innate generosity that exists here that doesn't exist anywhere else," he said."There is a real sense of collegiality, and I have been able to plug into an incredible array of people.

You don't have to convince Rian Bowden, CEO of DailySplice.

The start-up company, established in 2007, owes a great debt to those who have gone before.

"I can't imagine a better place to have started the company just because of the support we've had from the community," he said, adding he has a group of high-tech executives bounces ideas off. "We couldn't do this without that kind of help."