Mission Bridge
Credit: Tourism Abbotsford

widgetThe two cities balance their agricultural strengths with a newer emphasis on industries such as manufacturing and aerospace

Abbotsford-Mission has an enviable problem: figuring out how to build on success. Its economy is projected to grow 2.5 percent in 2018, making it the second-fastest-growing census metropolitan area (CMA) in the country, according to the Conference Board of Canada. That places these two neighbouring Fraser Valley communities just behind Vancouver and its 2.7 percent real GDP growth. This nation-leading performance is nothing new for Abbotsford-Mission, which has consistently hung around the top of Canada’s economic leader board for more than a decade. So while many cities struggle to attract more business and jobs, the main challenge for Abbotsford and Mission is to sustain growth in a way that benefits all of their citizens.

The two cities are politically separate municipalities, but they’re tied together on the census books. Abbotsford is by far the bigger of the two population-wise. It’s a city with more than 140,000 people, while Mission is a district municipality with about 40,000. Abbotsford’s landscape is dominated by some of the most productive farmland in the country, with roughly 70 percent of its area protected within the province’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Mission is mostly covered by mountains and forests—only about 6 percent of its land is in the ALR.

Agriculture and forestry remain important and vibrant industries here, but newer ones have surged to the forefront. Those foundational sectors now account for less than 5 percent of the jobs in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA. Wholesale and retail trade, construction, health care and manufacturing now lead the way. Aerospace is literally flying, with Abbotsford International Airport providing a home base for thriving civil and defence contractors like Cascade Aerospace Inc. and Marshall Aerospace Canada Inc. The two companies provide maintenance and engineering services for military and commercial clients, supporting aircraft made by Boeing Co. in nearby Washington State, as well as planes from Bombardier, Lockheed Martin and others.

Manufacturing and aerospace are expected to be the key drivers of job growth in the coming years, but the industrial land needed to support those sectors is becoming scarce here—just as it is in the rest of the Lower Mainland. In 2017, Abbotsford proposed that the province’s Agricultural Land Commission remove 283 hectares from the ALR and convert it to industrial use. Without such an addition, the city’s supply of usable, vacant industrial property is projected to run out in seven to 13 years. In Mission, industrial and agricultural land are in short supply, and two locations being considered for future employment land lie within the ALR. The district plans to consider food production industries on these properties as a way to add jobs while abiding by provincial regulations.

Population: 191,171
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 36.3%, 39.6%, 24.1%
University grads: 14.6%
Average household income: $93,522
Average household income under 45: $89,179
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 14.7%
Five-year population growth: 7.9%

Benchmark detached home price: $814,000 (Abbotsford); $676,700 (Mission)
Benchmark condominium price: $336,600 (Abbotsford); $329,500 (Mission)
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $951(Abbotsford); $787 (Mission); $934 (census metropolitan area)
Average annual household spending on shelter: $23,054

Key industries: Wholesale and retail trade; construction; health care; manufacturing, aerospace; agriculture; forestry
Notable employers: BC Frozen Foods Ltd.; Cascade Aerospace Inc.; Corrections Canada; Fraser Health Authority; Marshall Aerospace Canada Inc.; Vitalus Nutrition Inc.
Regional unemployment: 4% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $424,993,000 (Abbotsford); $49,146,000 (Mission)
Change from 2016: 108.1% (Abbotsford); 18.4% (Mission)
Average processing time for a building permit: n/a
Cost of a business licence: $130-$7,000 (Abbotsford); $250-$10,000 (Mission)
Business property tax rate: $16.33 per $1,000 of assessed value (Abbotsford); $19.23 (Mission)
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $9.50-$17
Average retail lease rate: $12-$30

Quality of LifeQUALITY OF LIFE
Major post-secondary institutions: University of the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford)
Major recreational amenities: Abbotsford: Abbotsford Centre stadium; two indoor pools, outdoor pool; three skating rinks; 18 parks with sports fields; 20 baseball fields; two skateboard parks; tennis courts; horse-riding trails

Mission: Indoor pool; urban and forested trail networks; four baseball diamonds; eight softball diamonds; four soccer fields; two all-weather fields
Key annual events: BC Ukrainian Cultural Festival (Mission); Children’s Festival (Mission); Mission Folk Music Festival; Abbotsford Agrifair; Abbotsford International Air Show; BC Hop Fest (Abbotsford); AbbyFest–Abbotsford Multicultural Festival
Average annual household spending on recreation: $4,923
Residents who walk or bike to work: 2%