Imagination Economy – Part 3
Rob Jawl, Jesse Campbell, Simon Whitfield, Alexandra Branzan Albu, Scott Gurney, Cyndi MacLeod
More conversations with smart, funny, imaginative, articulate, and ambitious people based in Victoria, by choice. They echo the three key themes that draw and keep talented and creative folks close to the Victoria area: collaboration and creativity; people and community; and big picture quality of life.
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When People Actually Care What Happens
Exceptional people and vibrant communities are part of the appeal of Victoria. People here care about their community and want improvement to happen in the best possible way. Growth for the sake of growth simply does not work here.
So when planning The Atrium building in the heart of Victoria, Rob Jawl of Jawl Properties envisioned a special place, somewhere for changing demographics to intersect, especially the emerging resident population in the downtown core. The resulting development has become in important Victoria nerve centre. Offering amenities and experiences, not just offices, local businesses like AJ’s Organics and Victory Barber & Brand are thriving amongst the slick architecture and hyper-social environment of The Atrium.
“Those of us who choose to live in Victoria feel compelled and driven to stay here and engage in our craft,” explains Jawl. The reason you walk into The Atrium and see unique, owner-operated establishments is because Rob Jawl deliberately curated it that way. He recruited entrepreneurial and passionate owners – people just like him.
Creative Communities Collaborate
“I think the Victoria economy is special,” posits Jesse Campbell. His agency Bully Creative is at the forefront of modern web design, building elegant, cutting edge digital environments for businesses like Hoyne Brewery and Rebar Modern Food. He acknowledges that the bleeding edges separating the sectors are where some of the city’s best creative projects become reality. “The creative industry doesn’t end with design firms or startups. It extends to the coffee shops, the restaurants, and the general goings-on in the city.” Saturation in the tech realm would point to fierce com- petition, even potential ill will between creatives but Campbell believes a mutual harmony between likeminded creatives contributes to the push and pull, keeping everyone at the top of their game.
“I don’t really categorize other companies or designers as competition, in the traditional sense. Many good friends are business owners in the same industry, so there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration. The community here is pretty tightly knit; I prefer to think everyone boosts one another’s strengths.”
For Olympic Gold Medal Winner Simon Whitfield, Victoria offers big benefits as his home base and he appreciates the imaginative people he works with here. “I’ve spent a lot of time with the various creative collectives in town and they’ve all contributed to my career, from web and logo design to direct inspiration. From a simple cooking lesson or a moment talking artisan craft with the butcher, interesting and passionate people are what inspires me.”
Global Perspectives and Big Ideas
Victoria’s is now projecting its competitive dialog globally across many platforms. Preparing for an upcoming trade mission to China, Cyndi MacLeod, VP Marketing and Alumni at Royal Roads University, feels that Victoria manages both ends of the competitive spectrum.
“At Royal Roads, we had to re-imagine the university in order to harness the power of a rapidly changing education landscape. We adapted to become very nimble in offering global competencies. International education is something that people want and need, now. We are based in Victoria, but reach out to the world.”
A more globally-oriented outlook is important to Alexandra Branzan Albu, Associate Professor Electrical/ Computer Engineering at University of Victoria. “I feel Victoria’s demographics have changed a lot; there are more young people from a diversity of ethnic back- grounds.” Albu is excited about Victoria’s evolution. “Currently in my own research group, I have a real mix of backgrounds: Iranians, French Canadians, Saudi-Arabians, and of course local partners and students. It makes for a great atmosphere, and for a very lively cultural foundation.”
Culinary entrepreneur Scott Gurney agrees – he moved here after learning his chops around the world. Now his goals are to partner with interesting people and he feels “immensely supported by this community and by the amazing team I work with – without them I wouldn’t be successful – it’s a recipe that works”. Scott puzzles over the various Victoria municipalities though, …”when you travel you don’t say you’re from View Royal or Saanich – you say Victoria, seriously, we need to be one city and have the best possible setting for growth”.
Unbeatable Lifestyle – No, really, unbeatable
Victoria’s creative community is growing. It’s a place where Olympians, CEOs, political leaders, digital visionaries, artists, musicians and business leaders create an impact, locally and globally. And while we might take it for granted when we run the trails, dance to the DJ or suit up for some waves, it’s undeniable that Victoria is one of the world’s most coveted set- tings. Natural beauty, a relaxed pace of life, a vibrant arts scenes and mind boggling opportunities for recreational sports all exist in tandem here.
Hoyne re-emphasizes Victoria’s unparalleled lifestyle. “When I first arrived here, I spent five years climbing mountains, getting out on the water, exploring every- where. The quality of life is why I stayed in Victoria and raised a family. People here really care about living a life that matters.”
Jawl feels that it’s time to let the rest of the world know just how unique and multi-dimensional Victoria really is. “Our ambition is not to be the 350,000 population scale model of Vancouver,” he proclaims. “Why should we? We choose Victoria! I feel like this city is finally realizing it doesn’t have to harbour an inferiority complex. Whatever you’re looking for – cycling, outdoor activities, coffee, athletics, academia, the arts – it’s all here”.
With imagination at the core of our community, we don’t need to push people together – they naturally intersect en route to success stories with unique plots and themes.
What better way to promote that fact than to share these stories? Ours is a creative ecosystem built on brains and beauty. We grow dynamic and successful people here.
Welcome to the Imagination Economy.