Embracing high-tech is the way to economic diversity.
That was the message delivered by Amrik Virk, minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services, during a business luncheon hosted by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce at Nanaimo Golf Club Wednesday.
Virk was also in town for the two-year anniversary celebration of SquareOne technologyco-working space in downtown Nanaimo.
In his presentation, Virk spoke about the economic benefits to be gained by businesses and local economies through developing and embracing emerging technologies.
“Invariably over time, industries will be up and industries will be down,” Virk said. “If we are diverse and we are broad-base, we will continue to be that shining star in our Dominion of Canada in the jobs that we create and you’ve done so much here.”
Virk cited the B.C. Innovation Council and Innovation Island as drivers, invested in by the government, to generate economic diversity through developing technology and support startup tech companies in 14 regions across B.C., including Vancouver Island.
“At any given time we’ll have 250 different companies at any one of our incubators across the province,” Virk said. “They’re nurtured and then they’re pushed outside the nest to go forth and prosper and create jobs.”
Virk said B.C.’s geographic location in Canada helps diversify its trade partnerships around the world. Where Ontario might do 80 per cent of its trade with the U.S., B.C. does half of it overseas trade with the United States and half with Asian Pacific markets.
“We are a small market. We’re 4.67 million people. If we think the product we produce we’re going to consume internally, then that’s a company doomed for failure,” he said. “A tech company, the day they start they’re an exporter.”
Virk said as the tech sector develops there will need to be an influx of population to fill new jobs, but the province already has the colleges, universities and technology institutes to produce the talent. It also has an attractive combined corporate income tax structure of 26 per cent versus the 41 per cent tax rate a tech company setting in Silicon Valley, Calif., would face.
“But we are not Silicon Valley North. Have you heard that term, Hollywood North? Well, we are B.C. Tech … and it’s getting acknowledged across North America,” Virk said, citing Amazon, Skype and Microsoft OneNote, Animal Logic and Sony Imageworks among major technology firms that have set up operations in B.C.