New service saves on travel
Provincial video conferencing set up in every region of British Columbia
British Columbia got a little smaller yesterday as politicians, business people and media from six communities carried on face-to-face conversations — and traded friendly jabs — without leaving home.
The provincial government unveiled new video conferencing services in every region of B.C. designed to give small businesses outside of the major centres and in rural areas easy access to training and development programs.
The increasingly popular method of meeting is expected to save small business owners — who make up 98 per cent of all businesses in B.C. — time and money travelling to Victoria or Vancouver and reduce the carbon footprint left by planes or automobiles, says Small Business and Revenue Minister Rick Thorpe.
The minister made the announcement from Gastown in Vancouver with links to Kamloops, Quesnel, Cranbrook, Nanaimo and Victoria.
Deputy Premier Shirley Bond, in Vancouver with Thorpe for the announcement, marvelled at the efficiency of the technology, but wasn’t getting an answer when she asked fellow Prince George MLA Pat Bell, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, for his comments.
After a moment of silence, Bond asked for Bell again, this time referring to the “guy with the bald head” on the split screen from Prince George.
Bell, who by then figured out the remote control, replied with a quick retort on Bond’s diminutive stature.
The six audiences on split screens responded with laughter at the barbs with Thorpe cutting in that the technology does work well.
“This video-conferencing project demonstrates what can be accomplished when government and the small business community work together in partnership,” said Thorpe.
The province contributed $305,000 to Small Business B.C. to implement the network system, which is run over Internet Protocol and a sliver of the cost compared to long-distance phone services.
The conference seminars are free to businesses.
There are currently 15 sites set up, including Fort St. John, Smithers, Surrey, Williams Lake, Dawson Creek, Penticton, Prince Rupert and Vernon.
Nine of the sites are housed in FrontCounter B.C. locations, including at the Business Victoria offices at Sussex Place in downtown Victoria, and another five in the federal government’s community futures offices.
The head office of Small Business B.C. in Vancouver serves as the host site.
The 15 sites also connect users to a larger network of conferencing sites across the province and Canada through Community Futures offices funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada.
Thorpe said more sites will be added in the future to cover even the most remote areas of B.C.
Patrick Marshall, Small Business B.C.’s chief governing officer and CEO of Ocean Industries B.C. in Campbell River, applauded the province’s initiative, saying easy local access to training and development opportunities in Vancouver or Victoria will help businesses in rural and resource-dependent communities “grow more effectively.”
Ken Stratford of Business Victoria Economic Development Commission, which has been offering video-conferencing for 15 years, said businesses will benefit from conferences on provincial sales taxes, succession planning and staff retention. And the money — and time — saved can be enormous.
“To get four people from Vancouver here for meeting is going to cost $2,000 for transportation, meals, maybe a hotel,” he said, adding that’s not to mention employees taking time away for travel over two days.
Quesnel Coun. Coralee Oakes said video links for meetings are invaluable for Interior cities.
“This conferencing is going to allow our local businesses greater access to important business workshops and seminars right in our own community and it will benefit the environment with reduced travel.”
For information on upcoming video conferences, click www.smallbusinessbc.ca or www.smallbusinessvictoria.com.