COURTENAY, B.C. – With an eye towards a shift in the workforce, the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) recently approved $10,000 in funding dedicated to growing the Comox Valley’s tech sector.

The funds will go to support the development of a “tech attraction strategy” for the valley, by identifying the competitive advantages as well as partnerships and investment opportunities necessary to build a strong technology sector in the region.

Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS) executive director John Watson explained how the funds will be used.

“(The funds) will go to research in regards to the degree of readiness that the community has in embracing tech and expanding tech, and tracking tech into the region,” Watson said.

“It’s predominantly a research-based planning process that we’ll be undertaking.”

Led by the CVEDS, the project will analyze the region’s existing tech sector, assets and infrastructure, and look into the Comox Valley’s key competitive advantages.

The project will then identify target industries and companies.

Additionally, a recruitment and retention plan for the tech sector will be created, based on labour force research.

Watson called the initiative is “an opportunity to examine technology and innovation” in the context of a broader economic strategy, “and really dig into the readiness level of the community to attract tech, and the opportunities and specific type of companies that might be targeted for relocation.”

With wages 75 percent higher than B.C.’s industrial average, the tech sector is not only a fast-growing part of the provincial economy, “but also one of the key economic diversification opportunities for many Island and Coastal communities,” according to an ICET release.

“We recognize that improved broadband infrastructure across the region is creating new opportunities for some tech companies to move beyond larger urban centres,” said society chair Josie Osborne.

She said the tech strategy funding stream of the society’s Economic Development Readiness Program was designed to help communities identify their unique assets, opportunities and competitive advantages, enabling them to develop a fact-based roadmap to tech attraction.

Watson said over the next decade, there is going to be a vast change in the types of jobs available within communities.

“Certainly rural communities will face even greater challenges,” Watson said. “So this gives us an opportunity to look out for a bit longer time horizon, and envision some of those types of skill sets that companies and communities are going to require, and in fact will be available.”

Watson said technology is a growing part of almost every industry, and this strategy will help the valley “identify where we can help bring a new tech sector talent and investment into play.”

“In addition to bolstering and supporting existing sectors, we expect that the strategy will identify other tech sector companies that will look to the valley as a new home,” he added.

The project is expected to begin shortly with completion expected by June 2019.