This is a Guest Post by Nevin Thompson, JumpStart Web
While the Saanich Peninsula has an excellent reputation as the perfect destination for tourists, retirees and boaters, what’s often overlooked is that this beautiful and pastoral corner of British Columbia is also an economic powerhouse with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada – all thanks to a thriving tech sector based on software, advanced manufacturing, remote sensing, and aerospace.
So, here’s a list of the top 5 things you didn’t know about the Saanich Peninsula’s tech sector:
1. The tech sector on the Saanich Peninsula is big
The technology sector is one of the largest economic sectors in the Greater Victoria region. According to a KPMG report commissioned by VIATeC, there are 800 known technology companies in the region employing more than 13,000 people. The regional tech sector generates almost $2 billion in annual revenues with an economic impact of $2.65 billion.
And some of the biggest companies are located on the Saanich Peninsula.
2. Vancouver Island’s largest software development facility is on the Saanich Peninsula
Schneider Electric, located just off Keating X Road in Central Saanich, is home to 350 employees locally (the company itself employees more than 100,000 people around the world), and half of its local employees – nearly 200 people – work as software developers.
Schneider’s operation at Keating X Cross is a home-grown success story. A startup that originated at theUniversityofVictoria, Power Measurement developed and manufacturing power monitoring devices, and was purchased by global giant Schneider in 2006.
While the operation on the Saanich Peninsula still produces highly sought-after power monitoring devices, the software developers at Schneider are helping make next generation “smart grid” power management technologies a reality.
3. Manufacturing employs hundreds of people on the Saanich Peninsula
The SaanichPeninsula is home to some of the most sophisticated manufacturing facilities in the world. For example, Scott Plastics, Nicholson, Viking Air, Ramsay Group, and Axy Technologies all export around the world (and there are many more examples). Their products are typically high-value and unique. Axys Technologies sells weather buoys that maintain remote environmental data acquisition, processing, and telemetry systems, while Nicholson sells ring debarkers used by forestry companies all over the world. All of these companies typically employ mechanical and electrical engineers, software and firmware engineers, skilled technologists and even physicists – right here on the SaanichPeninsula.
4. Aerospace is big on the Peninsula
As we all know, as Canada’s 9th busiest airport, YYJ manages flow of about 1.5 million passengers per year on an average of 120 daily flights. But the airport has also fostered a burgeoning aerospace cluster that provides high-paying jobs for a skilled workforce. Viking Air is successful at producing new-generation Twin Otter aircraft that are in demand all over the world, while VIH next door plays a major role in the Canadian aerospace industry by providing a wide variety of specialty services in various industrial sectors such as forestry, oil and gas, mining exploration, and tourism. VIH is also home to a product design group that creates special installations and unique products that address increasingly complex and sophisticated array of communication and navigation equipment on planes and helicopters.
At least a dozen more businesses clustered around the airport such as Pacific Sky Aviation , Victoria Avionics, and numerous charter and commute companies (like Hyack Air and Pat Bay Air), and also Victoria Air Maintenance; providing avionics services for YYJ and provide high-paying jobs for skilled workers.
5. The Peninsula is home to Canada’s second largest marine technology cluster
While North Vancouver can claim the Nuyt Suit, the Saanich Peninsula can boast the second-largest marine technology cluster in Canada, after the cluster centered around Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland. The local marine technology cluster has been helped by the presence of the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Patricia Bay; just across West Saanich Road lies the new Marine Technology Centre, home of the Venus and Neptune projects.
Neptune is the world’s first regional-scale underwater ocean observatory network that plugs directly into the Internet. People everywhere can ‘surf the seafloor,’, while ocean scientists run deep-water experiments from labs and universities anywhere around the world.
Venus supports study of the seaways near shore, whereas NEPTUNE Canada is deployed into the deep sea off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The local tech sector’s biggest barrier to growth is finding new workers
Two of the Saanich Peninsula tech sector’s greatest barriers to economic growth are finding new workers, and finding suitable housing for them. While the work is here, one of the key challenges is the availability of affordable housing for younger families. As it is, many workers commute from other parts of Victoria to technology jobs on the Saanich Peninsula.
On the other hand, local governments have shown an enlightened approach over the past decade towards “smart development”. For example, Sidney has been transformed in many ways as “densified” housing has replaced previous post-war single family dwellings close to the downtown core.
Market the Peninsula as a place to live, work and play
Others have suggested that local businesses should try to develop entertainment options that are more attractive to a younger workforce, but perhaps what should really happen is that communities in the Saanich Peninsula should market what already exists: an amazing array of outdoor activities, from boating and kayaking, to hiking and biking that all appeal to what technology workers really care about: a healthy career-life balance that combines interesting, well-paid work with fantastic recreational opportunities, often outside their front door.
The Saanich Peninsula is getting more effective at marketing itself to visitors, and perhaps the next step is marketing the region to the next generation of knowledge workers. Because there are plenty of progressive businesses creating high-paying jobs here, just waiting for them.
Leave a comment if you have a favourite local technology company you think we should know about!
If you are interested in contributing to the Chamber Blog as a guest writer we’d love to hear from you. The Chamber actively encourages promoting of local businesses, sharing important information freely, shopping/spending time locally, investing in our communities, and various ways of charitable giving. Read our “chamber guest writer” instructions here or learn more about the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and what we’re up to at our home page.