In a keynote address to the Vancouver Board of Trade this afternoon, Mayor Gregor Robertson outlined next steps to enhance competitiveness and ensure Vancouver’s growing economy is driven by a focus on innovation.
“Vancouver has a lot to be proud of: When many other cities and towns are struggling with instability and uncertainty, our economy is vibrant, dynamic, and growing,” said Mayor Robertson. “We cannot afford to take it for granted. We have decisions to make in the coming months and years that will shape our economic future and the lives of Vancouver's people for generations to come.”
The Mayor announced that a record amount of new office space is under construction in Vancouver, with the past three years seeing 2.5 million square feet approved or built in downtown Vancouver – more than the entire preceding decade combined.
He highlighted a growing global confidence in Vancouver’s economy, with new offices opening from Amazon and Twitter, a new $750 million national headquarters for Telus, the re-location of the world-renowned TED conference to Vancouver, and the return next year of SIGGRAPH – the world’s biggest computer graphics conference.
In addition, Vancouver has now joined London and Los Angeles as one of the world’s three largest clusters for digital media investment, with the city’s $3 billion digital media sector now supporting over 24,000 jobs.
The Mayor announced a new capital fund from the Vancouver Economic Commission to support Vancouver’s most promising start-ups, in addition to a series of spin-off events related to next year’s TED conference. He also announced the coming launch of a new City app, to provide citizens and businesses with 24/7 access to the city on their smartphone.
“Our knowledge economy is booming in jobs, reshaping our City’s economy and yet also providing huge benefits for our other industries – because the strengths of each sector can complement one another,” said the Mayor. “We must make the choice that Vancouver should be a city of innovation.”
The Mayor also spoke to the importance of supporting small business, with 10% more business licences operating than before the recession. Since 2008, the City of Vancouver has worked to reduce the number of business licence categories from 636 to less than 200, while processing times for single-family home applications have also been slashed from 15-18 weeks to 6-8 weeks. 2012 was also a record year for building permits issued in Vancouver, with over $2.5 billion of new construction activity creating thousands of jobs and exceeding pre-recessions levels.
“These moves – taking care of the basics – send a signal to anyone thinking about opening up a business or moving to our city that Vancouver has its act together,” said the Mayor. “I’m still an entrepreneur at heart, and small business is where I cut my teeth. On my watch, Vancouver can count on fiscal stewardship and accountability at City Hall.”
The Mayor also identified a number of challenges that must be addressed to ensure Vancouver’s continued economic success.
“The position of strength that we’re in did not happen by accident, and our economic success is not inevitable - We are facing some serious forks in the road,” said the Mayor.
The Mayor identified an urgent need for more investment in rapid transit infrastructure and further action to support renters and more affordable housing if Vancouver is to continue to attract and retain leading talent and jobs from around the world.
“The UBC-Broadway Subway is a priority investment not just for Vancouver’s sake but for all of British Columbia. The UBC Broadway corridor is BC’s 2nd biggest jobs hub, the biggest medical cluster west of Toronto, and has twice the daily trips as the Massey tunnel.”