Why Vancouver Island
Favourable Business Environment
One of the advantages of being an Island is that the spirit of collaboration for mutual benefit is tangibly stronger than in many other jurisdictions. There is a general understanding that what is beneficial for any part of Vancouver Island is beneficial for every part of Vancouver Island. ‘We’re in this together!’ And because dwelling on an Island tends to bring out self-sufficiency in people, the Island economy is more diversified than in some jurisdictions elsewhere in British Columbia.
The Island economy has been diversifying traditional dependence on resource industries over the last three decades and, in this continuing climate of adjustment, the entrepreneurial spirit is emerging driven and strong. Technology, advanced manufacturing, agri-foods, seafoods, value-added wood manufacturing, and post-secondary education are growth areas and because of the significant change in the complexion of primary forest industries, Vancouver Island boasts a significant inventory of well-positioned, and under-utilized industrial land. Thus, the zoning, as well as a high degree of social license, already exists for the industry. This is critically advantageous because in many jurisdictions that the process for gaining public acceptance for rezoning to allow industrial activity can be lengthy, expensive, and, most of all, uncertain.
Indigenous Economic Development
Part of the favourable Vancouver Island business climate is the appetite for partnerships amongst First Nation business and economic development organizations. Stories about ‘claims’ and ‘rights’ and ‘land title’ and lots of lawyers tend to dominate in the news, but, ‘on the ground’ this is juxtaposed by a growing trend of indigenous and non-indigenous business deals.
The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance has been actively facilitating indigenous business development and First Nations economic development by co-hosting Aboriginal Business Match events on Vancouver Island (2016-2019) as well as prominently featuring indigenous content at VIEA’s annual Economic Summit. The Economic Alliance recognizes the opportunity for a First Nations parallel and integrated economy that is new, innovative and based on the federal courts’ direction of First Nations involvement. This involves resources controlled by First Nations, the building of available human capacity in the fastest growing population on the Island, and engaging in social and economic innovation that itself will attract a great deal of attention and investment.
Available Industrial-Zoned Land
An FTZVI priority is to promote the availability of a significant inventory of industrial land with easy access to air and sea transportation. Changes in resources industries on Vancouver Island have led to a land-use gap where large tracts of industrial land are available to be repurposed for export trade. For instance, the Alberni Valley alone offers 334 hectares of available industrial land beyond the 2883 hectares directly adjacent to the airport.
The Vancouver Island economy has been transitioning from being dominated by primary resource industries (especially logs, lumber, pulp and minerals) to a diversified base which includes these primary industries along with technical innovation and manufacturing. All along the Island’s coast are under-utilized industrial lands with deep water access—a result of decades of resources export activity. Of particular significance is the fact that two of Canada’s 18 Port Authorities operate on Vancouver Island—both with bold strategies for optimizing their deep-water potential and building out their industrial lands.
One of the features that causes Vancouver Island to have unique and significant potential for exponential industrial/export growth is the amount of available industrial land with deep water access. Because of the Island’s heavy industrial past with mills of varying description up and down the coast, communities from one end of the Island to the other have significant inventories of under-utilized industrial land with access to deep water and, perhaps most importantly, with long-established social license for industrial activity.
VIEA is working to support industrial growth throughout Vancouver Island and FTZVI is positioned to support the import/export activity essential to such growth.
It is important to note that growth trends on Vancouver Island are unlikely to remain geographically static. Industrial decentralization is part of a growth trend which broadens opportunity for rural industrial development consistent with land use practices. The regional land and transportation infrastructure of FTZVI is able to support growth throughout the region in ways that are not and could not be feasible in the confined geography of a single municipality.
Vancouver Island boasts some of the best and most diverse transportation infrastructure in Canada—with significant untapped potential and room to grow. Deep sea ports, ferry terminals, barging and stevedoring capacity, regional and international airports, rail connection to all of North America, and highway system all combine to enable access to markets in all of the Americas and beyond.
Vancouver Island features several airports (Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox, Port Alberni and Campbell River) with developable industrial land and international cargo capacity. The Port Alberni Airport, for instance, was upgraded to specifically support expansion of the Coulson Group and its international firefighting aircraft business.
Short-sea connections between ports and harbours all along the Island coast and CN Rail with its terminus at the Fraser River links all of North America with Vancouver Island.
This report took the recommendations that arose from the stakeholder roundtable discussions held in 2016 by the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) and the BC and Canadian Wood Councils in seven communities across Vancouver Island. The Wood Industries business cases include The Case for Pressure-Treated Lumber Production, The Case for Mass Timber Production, and The Case for a Wood-Based Thermal Insulation Manufacturing Business.
Aquaculture on Vancouver Island consists of the cultivation of finfish, shell fish and the harvesting of aquatic plants. Atlantic Salmon is the prime finfish farmed in BC while Chinook, Coho and Sockeye are also cultivated. In addition to salmon species, Steelhead Trout, Sablefish, Sturgeon and Tilapia are also farmed
The Vancouver Island Clean Tech sector is aligned with global, national and provincial priorities to profitably capitalize on initiatives to reduce dependency of fossil fuels and improve efficiencies in the future delivery of goods and services.
Tourism is loosely defined as various activities of people which include travelling and staying in places different from their usual environment either for business or leisure purposes. Vancouver Island has a global brand as the place to see natural beauty at its finest.
In a 2017 report on value-added wood manufacturing, VIEA suggested there were viable business opportunities for new ventures. One challenging aspect to the discussion was the availability of raw materials.
See our portfolio of business cases for Vancouver Island investment opportunities
View the regional districts, transportation infrastructure, and post-secondary institutions located across Vancouver Island