Government and business have to think more like each other

Carson Ting | BCBusiness

Olga Ilich. Principal, Progressive Construction

Olga Ilich was 29 and a recent MBA graduate when she was considering her options. She was offered a job as a portfolio manager in Alberta and another job in Toronto. But Ilich wanted to return to British Columbia and work in something solid—something that could be seen building up. And so she went into the construction business, where she was hired by Milan Ilich to work for his company, Progressive Construction; she ended up marrying one of Ilich’s brothers, and then founded her own company, Suncor Developments. In 2005, Ilich made the jump into politics as a BC Liberal, ultimately serving in two cabinet portfolios: Labour and Citizens’ Services, and Tourism, Sport and the Arts. Since 2011, Ilich, 62, has been co-chair of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s task force on housing affordability.

My Big Idea

“Government and business have to think more like each other.”

When you’re in the business of building, you want to get the job done. That’s it. These are the resources we need to marshal, whether it’s time or personnel or money, and here’s the path we need to take. One of the things that is very clear about running a business is if you don’t deal with things that are in the way, you don’t get paid. On the other hand, building communities—that’s what governments are very good at. Their job is to listen to the public, but even that has changed. Twenty-five years ago, there was no discussion about dealing with First Nations issues and now that’s part of the conversation that government has to have. Businesses often fail to understand why it is that governments have to listen and get input, but good developers do that. They work with communities in order to make things happen that communities want to make happen. They don’t want to go to areas where they’re not really wanted.