Coming into its own as a tech hub, the provincial capital is home to growing numbers of younger residents attracted by economic opportunity and an enviable quality of life
Greater Victoria—the centre of the Capital Regional District at the southern tip of Vancouver Island—once held to a simple but stable diet of tourism and government. Rich with students, retirees and starter-home families, the city had a reputation for offering little in the way of mid-career growth outside the civil service. But the past decade has brought a new wave of technology, shipbuilding and aerospace investment, and the spendy, job-creating 30-something cohort is giving Victoria a second look—bringing with it a refreshed business culture.
The once-shrinking 30-to-39 demographic has grown 12 percent over the past 10 years, according to BC Stats; in 2016 a “Victoria 2.0” panel pinned some of that change on Silicon Valley types leaving their 20s and looking to escape the high-stress lifestyle. The provincial capital’s high-tech sector now posts annual revenue of about $4 billion, the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC) reports, a 400-percent increase since 2004. The city has produced at least 20 gaming studios, plus newer heavyweights like literary marketplace Abebooks Inc., smart-home device maker Reliable Controls and environmental monitoring systems developer Axys Technologies Inc. Many more entrepreneurs are working on their own shot at becoming a global name: at almost 13 percent, Victoria has the highest concentration of self-employed people among Canada’s metropolitan areas.
In 2016 the region took charge of this shift by forming the South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP), a first-of-its-kind economic development agency that unites the CRD’s 13 municipalities, the Songhees and Tsawout First Nations, the harbour authority, local universities and real estate and tourism boards, plus several non-governmental organizations and private businesses. SIPP acts as a business concierge; offers resources to companies looking to expand or move to Victoria; and seeks out private and government investment.
The CRD has the country’s mildest weather, some of its highest per capita spending on sports and recreation, and enough cobblestone afternoon-tea charm to make you drop your monocle. But all of this comes with some sticker shock: since 2005, the cost of buying a home has roughly doubled. The window may be closing on making a cheap launch—but for apartment-dwelling entrepreneurs willing to live a little smaller or 24/7 tech stars who want to relax, Victoria is open for business.
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 35%, 37%, 28%
University grads: 31%
Average household income: $97,343
Average household income under 45: $84,810
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 16.1%
Five-year population growth: 5%
Average detached home price: $831,900
Average condominium price: $495,718
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $1,544
Average annual household spending on shelter: $23,414
Key industries: Science and technology; hospitality and tourism; government services; education; health care; navy and defence; shipbuilding and marine research; aerospace
Notable employers: Axys Technologies; Babcock Canada Inc.; British Columbia Ferry Services Inc.; Government of British Columbia; HP Advanced Solutions; Nicholson Manufacturing Ltd.; Ralmax Group of Companies; Schneider Electric SE; Scott Plastics Ltd.; Seaspan ULC; Thrifty Foods; Viking Air Ltd.
Regional unemployment: 5.8% (February)
Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $1,386,508,699
Change from 2016: 30.9%
Average processing time for a building permit: Varies by municipality
Cost of a business licence: Typically $100
Business property tax rate: $12.46 per $1,000 of assessed value (Victoria)
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $25.50
Average retail lease rate: $24-$38
QUALITY OF LIFE
Major post-secondary institutions: Camosun College; Royal Roads University; University of Victoria (UVic)
Major recreational amenities: Many regional and provincial parks; Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence; Commonwealth Place pool; at least 10 recreation facilities, plus many more community centres; more than 20 golf courses
Key annual events: Victoria Film Festival; Victoria Beer Week; Victoria Flower Count; Capital City Comic Con; CarFree Day; Victoria International Jazz Festival; Canada Day celebration; TD Art Gallery Paint In; Rock the Shores; Dragon Boat Festival; Victoria Symphony Splash; Rifflandia
Average annual household spending on recreation: $5,511
Residents who walk or bike to work: 9%