The tech industry in Vancouver demonstrated high resilience by adding around 12,900 jobs between 2019 and 2020. This represents a 21% growth during the pandemic. Such numbers place Vancouver as the third strongest city in North America regarding job growth. Thus, the city has stood out as one of the most resilient tech hubs, and was behind only Toronto, which added 40,200 tech jobs (26% growth), and Seattle, which added 39,600 jobs (23.6%).
Vancouver’s growth is ahead of several major cities like New York and Montreal. With the tech industry’s growth, Vancouver has the lowest office vacancy rate in North America. Even during the pandemic, when employees shifted to remote and hybrid work models, Vancouver witnessed a surge in office space rent, growing by 13.3%, just behind Seattle, which grew by 15%.
Amazon’s Expansion in Vancouver
Amazon’s expansion in Vancouver is catalyzing tech growth and office space demand. Amazon is building the largest office building in Vancouver downtown, which is expected to be completed by 2023. In 2020, Amazon announced that it would take over the former Canada Post building in Vancouver to build office space. It will lease 18 floors in the heritage building, which includes 17 floors in the South Tower and 18 floors in the North tower. Altogether, 1.1 million sq. feet of office space will be leased out, accommodating around 6,000 employees.
The building is being designed by MCM Partnership Architects. While preserving its heritage value, the building will receive LEED Gold green building certification. The top floors will be leased to corporate offices, and the ground 185,000 sq. ft of space is reserved for restaurants and retail shopping. This will be the largest increase in retail space in downtown Vancouver in the last two decades. Major stakeholders include Loblaws City Market grocery store with 50,000 sq. ft, The Joseph Richard Group’s food hall with 26,000 sq. ft, and Evolve Strength fitness gym with 36,000 sq. ft of space.
A Shift to Digital Economy
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a unique catalyst for digital adoption and digitization in Canada. In the last couple of years, strides in artificial intelligence, big data, and mobile technologies have impacted every industry. In short, the shift to a digital economy has been accelerated.
This has made companies more resilient to handle further pandemics and economic disruption. Even before the pandemic, technology has impacted traditional British Columbia firms like mining, forestry, transportation, medicine, and financial services. However, technology has helped these sectors to recover and accelerate their everyday functions by enabling people to work remotely.
Undoubtedly, British Columbia will not go back to the pre-COVID era. The pandemic has revolutionized industries by forcing businesses to adopt highly sophisticated technologies to interact with clients, customers, and employees. The province is accelerating its technology adoption to refashion its business models and functions across the economy.
British Columbia’s Emerging Economy Taskforce recommended that the province ”must build on its strengths in the technology sector and invest further in innovation, as well as facilitate the widespread adoption of innovation and technology across all sectors of the economy to improve overall business productivity, increase incomes and enable workers to thrive. Economies with strong home-grown technology and innovation industries have higher rates of technology adoption and capture more of the economic benefit than economies that rely on importing technology from elsewhere.”
According to the World Economic Forum, digital platforms will generate 70% of economic value. This is an excellent opportunity for British Columbia to capitalize on its technology adoption and position itself as a leader. With the third largest net tech employment in Canada, British Columbia is all set to compete with other leading provinces.
As discussed above, these factors have fueled the recovery of Vancouver (and British Columbia, in general) post-pandemic. If Vancouver continues on the road to technological adoption and digitization, it will make significant advances on the global economic map.