Times Colonist

New service saves on travel

Provincial video conferenci­ng set up in every region of British Columbia

- DARRON KLOSTER

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.

 ??  ?? Small businesses in B.C. are expected to benefit from free video conference­s that will save them time and money and provide valuable insight into topics such as business succession, staff retention and provincial and federal sales taxes.
Small businesses in B.C. are expected to benefit from free video conference­s that will save them time and money and provide valuable insight into topics such as business succession, staff retention and provincial and federal sales taxes.

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