Greater Victoria is a top-10 region for tech industry, study says

Source: Times Colonist

Greater Victoria’s technology sector is looking to the post-pandemic future as it earns seventh place among Canadian cities in a national study from real estate company CBRE.

A range of factors were evaluated for a score card listing the top 20 tech cities in Canada. Factors in the capital region’s ranking included the size of its labour pool (10,500 workers) and that tech jobs account for 6.6 per cent of total local employment.

Greater Victoria’s pool of talent has climbed by 14 per cent over the five years ending in 2019 and it earned a top score for the ­quality of the labour force.

“Victoria being listed in the top 10 and only being behind much larger population centres is telling the story we already know but most people haven’t heard yet,” Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, said Tuesday.

Greater Victoria is the top-performing mid-size community in the country on that list, he said. “It’s great for an organization to do a national study and validate that.”

He predicts the pandemic may prove to be a benefit in the long-term to growth in the tech sector. An increasing number of tech companies are “very comfortable” with the idea of staff working from home and with having employees who live in a different region.

Gunn anticipates companies in the future will have a larger mix of remote and in-person employees.

Greater Victoria’s amenities can attract workers from elsewhere, he said.

“There are a number of people who are probably living in cities around the world and across Canada that would rather be in a place like Victoria.”

CBRE’s list puts Greater Victoria after Toronto (which held onto the number one spot from last year), Ottawa, Vancouver, the Waterloo region, Montreal, and Calgary.

Greater Victoria held onto its seventh place ranking from 2019, after increasing its ranking by three places from 2018.

Local primary tech industries include advanced manufacturing, ocean science, and software applications and development.

Ross Marshall, senior vice president of the investment properties group at CBRE in Victoria, points to the post-secondary education options at universities and colleges locally. The availability of post-secondary education helps foster a highly skilled labour force, a major factor for tech companies, he said. “These are good jobs.”

A software developer in Greater Victoria makes an ­average of $86,195 annually, up 26 per cent over the past five years, the report said.

“The bottom line is we [Greater Victoria] are punching above our weight on a national scale and I think a big part of that is Vancouver is a hot spot, but we are very much an alternative to Vancouver,” Marshall said.

“Talent is flocking to our market because they get paid well and cost of living is less here than it is in Vancouver.”

Employees don’t typically earn as much in Vancouver, but considering the quality of life in Greater Victoria, ability to social distance and all the outdoor activities available, “there’s a lot to be said about it becoming a great alternative to Vancouver,” Marshall said.

CBRE Canada vice-chairman Paul Morassutti said, “Tech drives everything so it’s great to see our major markets do well. But it is also encouraging to see tech talent pools growing in smaller cities.

“The more areas that are plugged into, and benefit from, the economy of tomorrow the better, he said in a statement.

Smaller cities are increasingly seeing local start-ups, along with existing well-established companies.

“These areas may benefit further as young talent considers leaving major markets in the wake of the pandemic and businesses embrace more remote work,” Morassutti said.