Virtual Familiarization Tour – District of Squamish

Building on the work that the District's Economic Development team undertook in 2021, the Virtual Familiarization Tour (VFT) continues with the implementation of the District's Emerging Sector Roadmap and Action Plan (the Plan). The goal of the Plan is to facilitate a local business ecosystem that supports high-value local employment and employment reflective of the local workforce, where the composition of the local economy is diverse and adaptable to changing conditions, and where local firms are supported by innovation, research and development capacity, supportive infrastructure and a positive business climate.

In 2022, the District implemented its plans for the investor familiarization tour experience. This implementation involves three key components:

1. Design of Squamish Investment and Sector Guides that are accessible to investors for download in a digital familiarization tour, or provided to investors in hard copy for in-person tours.

2. Enhancing the District's investor-focused website with the development of a new familiarization tour feature, which offers prospective investors the chance to take an interactive familiarization tour from wherever they are. This is a microsite feature to complement the website (built within the ESRI StoryMaps platform), with interactive maps, copy, and videos to create a highly visual and immersive experience. The tour highlights Squamish's value proposition, introduces investors to entrepreneurs and companies from local anchor businesses, and provides an overview of key business areas and infrastructure in Squamish.

3. Through a streamlined Contact Us form, tour users are delivered resources most relevant to them, qualify leads, and book meetings with key Economic Development staff for one-on-one advising.

The Virtual Familiarization Tour is a single tool in the investment attraction toolbox for Squamish. In order to maximize the potential of this tool, it must be promoted, leveraged, and utilized.

To increase capacity for Economic Development at the District of Squamish we have in parallel with the VFT implementation delivered a Squamish Leaders in Trade and Investment program which includes an in-person information session, and supplementary online modules. Squamish Leaders, including District staff, partners, business leaders, and Mayor and Council, are invited to participate. The program highlights the value of strategically attracting trade and investment to Squamish, and the important role that Squamish Leaders play in engaging with potential investors. As we roll out these sessions to leaders throughout the community, we are creating consistent messaging, regarding our economic strategy and approach, so that Squamish Leaders amplify economic development's ability to attract strategic investment.

To encourage Squamish Leaders to use of the VFT they are supplied with QR-coded stickers linking directly to the VFT. The VFT is a key resource for Squamish Leaders, and for the Economic Development investor conversion funnel. Through Squamish Leaders and promotion through other channels, the VFT is shared with potential investors, providing them with the Squamish Investor Story, supplementary resources, and the ability to easily get in touch with Economic Development through the streamlined Contact Us feature.

These two aligned programs, the Squamish Leaders in Trade and Investment information session program and the VFT, are designed to deliver Economic Development additional capacity and a stream of qualified leads.

Please find below a link to review the VFT - Squamish Investment: a success story

Please find below a link to the Squamish Leaders Toolkit

A familiarization tour would be an asset to many communities seeking investment to enhance the economic ecosystem. Preceding the implementation of the VFT the District developed a roadmap and action plan, ensuring that the business ecosystem goals and implementation tactics align with the community's goals and values. Going through this thorough process enables the District to implement effective and targeted tactics such as the VFT. The foundational work that underpins the key messages in the VFT is understood and agreed upon prior to initiating the project; such as unique selling propositions (USP), investor funnels, and identified emerging sectors.

The following strategically aligned milestones have been achieved:
2017 - Economic Development Action Plan endorsed
2019 - Squamish Sector Ecosystem endorsed
2020 - Emerging Sector Roadmap and Action Plan endorsed
2020 - Ecosystem development opportunities prioritized
2021 - Economic Action Plan updated
2021 - Investor Lead Generation Strategy, including investor conversion funnels, and Familiarization Tour strategy developed.
2022 - launched
2022 - Trade and Investment program launched
2023 - Virtual Familiarization Tour launched
2023 - Squamish Leaders in Trade and Investment program launched
2023 - Enable investment and trade to support local business ecosystem development

Key elements of the familiarization tour experience:
o Location identification; to assist foreign and domestic investors
o Unique selling propositions (USPs); to emphasize Squamish's unique strengths, known to be attractive to Squamish investors.
o Community spokespeople; to enhance Economic Development messaging regarding USPs.
o Highlight key sectors; to ensure that target investors see themselves reflected in the business ecosystem, and to align with Economic Developments sector development goals.