Campbell River Economic Development Corporation

Leveraging present strengths for stable commercial future

The City of Campbell River lies on the east coast of Vancouver Island along the Inside Passage, a key coastal shipping route. The city has a population over 31,000 and the area has long been touted as “the Salmon Capital of the World.” The city launched Campbell River Economic Development Corporation, also called Rivercorp, with a simple mandate — to promote the economic development of Campbell River.

Organization with a purpose

Vic Goodman, CEO of Rivercorp, told The Canadian Business Journal, “Our job is to attract investment to the community so we can repopulate our industrial and employment bases. Simply put, we work to persuade companies to come and do business in Campbell River. Traditionally, the local economy has been resource-based and resources are still indicative of our economy. We have two mines nearby that significantly contribute to our economy. However, Campbell River is a small community, which makes it economically vulnerable. Several years ago, Campbell River experienced a large economic shock when the local pulp mill closed due to changes in the competitive structure of that industry. Today we are trying to develop several industry sources and stop siding with a single particular industry that could make Campbell River economically vulnerable once again.”

Cross-functional development plan

Rivercorp works with Campbell River’s strengths such as location, infrastructure, skillset and knowledge base to try to attract new businesses, develop new business clusters and build cross-functional services that will attract more business in the future. To this, Goodman said, “We are very open to new opportunities and we work closely with new business in Campbell River. We have tremendous infrastructure in place to support many types of business and we are already starting to build various industrial clusters. The development of these clusters will create new leverage points and new cross-functional sectors. We expect that strengthening of these cross-functional sectors will continue to attract additional business and industries to Campbell River in the future. We are trying to utilize our strengths in new ways to build strong and viable economic engines that will run for generations to come.”

Attractive positioning

Rivercorp works to create a business-ready environment and enhance the city’s business potential. One of Rivercorp’s many roles is to entrench the city’s position as the service centre for the northern part of Vancouver Island, making Campbell River the go-to location for repairs, spare parts and so on, servicing forestry, mining, aquaculture, fishing and other industries. The city recently expanded the runway of the local airport, which can now support landing of larger aircrafts. The airport now supports commercial air traffic and can be used as a hub for shipping international freight like fresh seafood to Asian markets for local aquaculture companies. The expanded airport also gives leverage to yet another underdeveloped opportunity for Campbell River, the potential to build an industrial park in the airport area.

Short and long term planning

While Rivercorp continues to work to rebuild the city’s medium and heavy industrial base, several projects that will spearhead business development in Campbell River are already in motion. Goodman said, “Newly announced major capital projects will support our economy while we continue to attract new business. Some of these short-term projects are the BC Hydro’s John Hart Upgrade Project and the construction of a new hospital in the city. The John Hart Upgrade Project is a $1.2 billion construction project focusing on upgrading the local hydroelectric facility. This project is scheduled to start in 2013 and will create 2,000 person years of employment over a span of five years. The construction of the new hospital will also start later this year and will create approximately 900 direct jobs and over 650 indirect jobs in industries supplying goods and services. Between these two projects we are looking at some $2 billion in capital expenditures that will boost our economic activity.”

Vision for the future

There are many facets to Rivercorp’s economic development work and its development ideas and plans are not short of visionary. Besides traditional business sectors such as mining and resources, Rivercorp also seeks to develop green technology and creative industry sectors. To this Goodman said, “Vancouver and the Lower Mainland represent a North American powerhouse when it comes to creative industries and we are interested in developing a cluster in Campbell River. Involved in the video games design, movie production, publishing, 3D technologies and so on, creative industries produce almost $12 billion annually in the province. However, companies in Lower Mainland are noticing their talent is being adversely affected by the cost of living and other factors. This type of business can be executed virtually anywhere there is good Internet access, so we are working with other Campbell River groups to incubate and accelerate the growth of a creative industry cluster here.

“We also offer a competitive advantage when it comes to the green energy sector. The city has adopted the Green City Strategy sending a clear message to companies in this sector. For example, the City of Campbell River is located at the point where the Vancouver Island is closest to the mainland, causing significant tidal currents. We see this geographical fact as an opportunity to develop a tidal energy business core where tidal energy developers can test and commercially prove their technology before selling it into world markets. Attracting this form of research and development would also develop the support services for this segment, leveraging our existing skillsets. For example, there are many people in Campbell River who work on the water and may have anchoring expertise associated with the aquaculture industry. These skills are transferable and could be used for anchoring tidal energy equipment. Further, when a tidal energy company proves its technology and starts selling it, there will be good reasons to use the skilled workforce already trained to do these installations.”

Pro-business, convenient and fun

For potential businesses and their employees, besides having a favourable business environment, the City of Campbell River is unique by offering big city conveniences while its inhabitants enjoy stunning nature and take advantage of well-developed tourism attractions. “You can walk out of your house and be surrounded by nature and wilderness within minutes. People can do anything from whale or bear watching, to hiking, mountain climbing, skiing and golf. From a quality of life standpoint, Campbell River offers the same amenities people expect in a big city, while preserving the small town feel.”