B.C. tech-investment increase good signal for post-pandemic restoration

“If you look at the last seven months, B.C. or Vancouver has produced seven companies worth over a billion dollars,” William Johnson, founder and editor, Vancouver Tech Journal.

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A boom in technology-related business acquisitions and investments this spring was a positive sign for B.C.’s post-pandemic economy, which is already bouncing back, economist Pierre Cleroux told the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Tuesday.

That is one reason Cleroux, chief economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada, doesn’t worry about Vancouver’s downtown core recovering its vibrancy after the work-from-home exodus ends.

“Sectors like the tech sector have been creating a lot of jobs,” Cleroux said.

As evidence of that, just the day before the Vancouver Board of Trade’s outlook forum, the Vancouver-headquartered firm Trulioo announced a US$349-million investment, which tech journalist William Johnson said was simply the latest in a chain of events.

“If you look at the last seven months, B.C. or Vancouver has produced seven companies worth over a billion dollars,” said Johnson, founder and editor of Vancouver Tech Journal. “Then you’ve got companies like Microsoft and Amazon that are hiring by the thousands every year, so there simply is not enough technical talent to go around.”


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In the bigger picture, Cleroux said B.C.’s resources and manufacturing sectors helped the province bounce back from the COVID-19 recession caused by the pandemic’s public-health measures.

Forestry and lumber manufacturing were particular strengths for B.C., Cleroux said, but more people now work in technology here than forestry, mining and oil and gas combined.

“So this is the future, basically, of the city and of the province,” he added. “Vancouver is one of the most important hubs for tech in North America and will continue to do very well.”

But Cleroux echoed Johnson’s concerns about recruiting talent with some 60 per cent of B.C. firms already reporting difficulties in hiring, according to Cleroux’s forecast.

That will continue to be driven by demographic trends. More baby boomers will retire over the coming years than young workers entering the workforce, Cleroux said. And the trend for job creation shows the economy generating new positions faster than the population is growing, even with immigration.

Cleroux’s optimism for B.C.’s economic recovery lies in vaccination rates, which as of Tuesday, stood at 74 per cent of all adults in B.C. having received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“As vaccination is doing very well, we expect that most Canadians are going to be vaccinated by the end of summer and most restrictions on the Canadian economy should be lifted,” Cleroux said.

“And as a result, the Canadian economy should go back to basically normal by the end of summer.”


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Cleroux was the keynote speaker for a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s economic outlook event for small and medium-sized business.

“In every sector, in every part of the country, when we lift restrictions, the economy is coming back very quickly.”

That assessment will be better news for B.C.’s tourism and hospitality sectors, which are still suffering, with employment at just 78 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, according to Cleroux.

Overall, B.C. has regained 99 per cent of the 400,000 jobs lost at the start of COVID-19 with manufacturing, in particular, showing particular strength posting a net gain of 10,000 positions from February, 2020 employment levels, Cleroux said.

However, even employers in hard-hit tourism are mindful of labour challenges ahead, according to Meredith Moll, vice-president of sales and marketing for Harbour Air Group.

“What I am hearing from everyone is that as soon as that restart plan came out for British Columbia, people did start to call up their old employers,” Moll said. “(But) we’re having to be a little bit more innovative with dynamic scheduling and work-from-home options like everybody has touched upon.”

For Harbour Air, it is a matter of “making sure that you are a destination employer,” Moll said.

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