B.C. City Guide 2018 - Cranbrook
Credit: Destination BC

widgetThe city of peaks and valleys will keep you entertained—and save you some money, too

Most famous in some circles as the birthplace of hockey legend Steve Yzerman, Cranbrook is a city in the East Kootenay west of the Kootenay River. With just under 27,000 residents, it’s the most populous community in the East Kootenay region and a two-hour drive to Alberta. Its slogan is “Mountains of Opportunity,” and credit to the wit who conjured up that one.

Sure enough, Cranbrook lies on the western edge of the Rocky Mountain Trench, a.k.a. the Valley of a Thousand Peaks because of the huge ranges that surround it. The Rocky Mountains to the east make the drive to our neighbouring province something to behold. And with the Kimberley Alpine Resort and Cranbrook Mountain to the south and west, respectively, this city has the mountains part covered.

As for opportunity, Cranbrook is constantly hunting to bring in new talent. Its sales pitch, like that from other smaller B.C. communities with an abundance of natural charm, focuses on showcasing its affinity for the outdoors. Although it seems unfair, Cranbrook sees more sunshine than any other city in the province while also being one of its top skiing and snowboarding destinations. The place has been described as an island in a sea of golf courses, too, so whatever your sporting fancy, you can probably find it here.

But there’s also a business angle to the pitch. For example, Cranbrook recently changed its development and permitting processes to expedite approvals. It also reformed procedures for capital construction projects, mandating local competitive bidding instead of automatically handing contracts to bigger companies elsewhere. That’s an important development, given that construction is one of Cranbrook’s biggest employers after the public sector and the College of the Rockies’ main campus. Mining, tourism and agriculture are also key economic drivers.

Then there’s the cost of living. More than half of the city’s residents live in detached houses. No wonder: last year, Cranbrook homes were about $380,000 cheaper than the provincial average.

Efforts to attract new people seem to be working: the population has seen a steady uptick in the past five years after little to no growth during the previous 20. And with a local airport that can get you to Vancouver in the time it takes to reach Van­couver from Victoria by ferry, it’s not like you’re leaving the big city behind entirely. Heck, a flight to Calgary takes under an hour. Simply put, there are plenty of peaks to be found in this valley.

Population: 26,568
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 30.7%, 39.1%, 30.2%
University grads: 17%
Average household income: $102,582
Average household income under 45: $95,187
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 21.6%
Five-year population growth: 3.7%

Average detached home price: $315,620 
Average condominium price: $152,157
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $805
Average annual household spending on shelter: $20,987

Key industries: Government services; education; construction; mining; retail and other services; hospitality and tourism; manufacturing; agriculture
Notable employers: College of the RockiesKtunaxa Nation CouncilPrestige Hotels & ResortsReal Canadian Superstore
Regional unemployment: 6.7% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $34,400,000
Change from 2016: 28.3%
Cost of a business licence: $150
Average processing time for a building permit: 10 days–4 weeks
Business property tax rate: $19.40 per $1,000 of assessed value
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $12-$18
Average retail lease rate: $10-$30

Quality of LifeQUALITY OF LIFE
Major post-secondary institutions: College of the Rockies
Major recreational amenities: 21 parks; eight golf courses; three skating rinks; curling rink; aquatic centre; downhill and cross-country skiing
Key annual events: Sam Steele Days; Brothers Insurance Agency Charity Car Show; Cranbrook Pro Rodeo; Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo
Average annual household spending on recreation: $4,590
Residents who walk or bike to work: 5.8%