This is the third of a four-part series exploring the B.C. Jobs Plan
From a high-tech sector that has spawned 17 of the fastest-growing technology companies in North America, to sawmills exporting record lumber volumes to Asia, B.C.'s sustained focus on innovation and trade is paying off where it counts - in jobs.
Investment in research and infrastructure, provincial tax credits for cutting-edge technology development and low tax rates have helped make B.C. a magnet for skilled workers from around the world. And, in so doing, create an estimated 84,000 jobs in the tech sector, explained B.C. Jobs Minister Pat Bell.
B.C.'s tech industry will create up to 4,000 jobs this year and, by 2014, 100,000 high-tech employees will be needed, according to the BC Technology Industry Association's 2012 TechTalent B.C. report.
Today, technology-related companies account for nearly six per cent of B.C.'s gross domestic product.
"I've always been vocal about staying in Vancouver. It's nothing but advantageous for HootSuite," said Ryan Holmes, founder and CEO of the social media company that has rocketed from 45 employees to 210 in the past year. HootSuite now has nearly six million users and a global client base that includes Fortune 500 companies.
HootSuite has six offices around the world, including its latest in London, England. "We've built this company up by attracting and hiring incredibly skilled and dedicated employees,
and I attribute much of this to where we're located," said Holmes.
"We have great government and community support here."
Vancouver-based Avigilon Corp., maker of renowned high-definition surveillance cameras, is ranked as the fastest-growing company in North America, according to Deloitte Fast 500 listings. With 150 employees, the company is among the B.C. tech startups that have flourished in B.C.'s nurturing business environment.
Lumber to Asia
The $500 million B.C. Jobs Plan is a comprehensive new initiative that includes skills training, efforts to expand global trade, and close work with employers and communities on job creation.
The impetus? Demand for workers is projected to grow faster than the labour force in every region of B.C. for the next decade.
Innovative job creation means more than high-tech, however. It involves nimble thinking and long-range planning to help B.C.'s more traditional industries.
Forestry is a prime example. Reacting to the slowdown in U.S. demand for lumber following the financial crisis, B.C.-led trade delegations opened trade offices and supported construction of wood-frame demonstration projects across Asia. The result: while the value of B.C.'s forestry-related exports to the U.S. declined 56 per cent by 2011, the value going to Taiwan rose by six per cent, to South Korea by 52 per cent, and to China by a startling 1,114 per cent. Total forestry exports to Asia last year surpassed $3 billion, and eclipsed U.S. exports for the first time.
Vancouver-based West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. exported roughly 30 per cent of its Canadian lumber shipments to Asia in the third quarter of this year, up from virtually nothing just five years ago, said chief executive officer Hank Ketcham.
It is innovation in bioenergy that has turned even wood waste into a massive trade opportunity. This September, Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., which manufactures pellet fuel from waste wood and beetle-killed trees, broke ground on a $42-million port facility at Prince Rupert that will allow the company to ship more quickly to both European and Asian customers. The project is expected to generate 90,000 hours of construction work, and up to 24 permanent jobs in a new terminal that will export more than 1.3 million tonnes of pellets annually.
China is poised to become Pinnacle's next big customer, said company chief operating officer Leroy Reitsma, who praised the provincial government's clean technology initiatives and international trade missions for helping to keep B.C. products in demand in foreign markets.
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