BC City Guide: Chilliwack
Credit: Destination BC/Local Wanderer

widgetThe strategically located farming community makes an attractive home base for businesses of all kinds looking to put down roots

Many British Columbians have had a taste of Chilliwack, even if they’ve never set foot in the Fraser Valley city. Its nearly 1,000 farms supply milk, eggs, fruit and much more to grocery stores across the continent. And just thinking about the roadside stands selling sweet Chilliwack corn every summer gets everyone’s mouths watering.

Farming has deep roots here—the industry dates back to the 1860s and still covers two-thirds of the land. Chilliwack’s landscape is dominated by the Fraser River delta’s vast, flat, fertile fields, pierced by the surrounding Cascade Mountains. The area’s culture and economy have grown far beyond this foundation, though. With almost 105,000 residents, this is no small rural town. About 2,500 people work in agriculture—which generates almost 30 percent of local economic activity, according to the city—but manufacturing, construction and health care are just some of the sectors that now employ more.

It’s no accident that a broader variety of companies are finding Chilliwack an ideal place from which to grow. Its size and location put it in a sweet spot: lots of big-city amenities are close at hand, but they don’t come with big-city costs. For businesses, this means having Metro Vancouver’s many customers less than an hour’s drive down the Trans-Canada Highway, while paying about a quarter of the cost for office rents. They can also reach suppliers and customers across Canada and abroad with superb road and rail connections to Metro Vancouver ports, U.S. border crossings and provinces to the east. About 60 trucking firms local and national trucking firms serve Chilliwack, as do Canadian National Railway Co. and Southern Railway of British Columbia Ltd.

Chilliwack is a sweet spot for residents, too. They can enjoy attractions like movie theatres, good restaurants, fitness facilities, libraries and parks while paying housing costs that are a fraction of Vancouver’s. Plus, there are sights and amenities you can’t get in the big city—nor in many other places, for that matter. This is an outdoor adventure paradise, with world-class whitewater paddling, mountain biking and hiking nearby. More than 2,000 campsites lie within city limits. Those who prefer their adventures to be less wild also have many options. Visitors come from Vancouver and farther afield to enjoy Chilliwack’s two waterparks, three provincial parks, lakes and golf courses. No wonder this is one of B.C.’s fastest-growing cities, with a population increase of almost 2 percent annually over the past five years.

Population: 104,190
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 31.2%, 38.3%, 30.5%
University grads: 13%
Average household income: $84,683
Average household income under 45: $82,999
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 15%
Five-year population growth: 8.7%

Average detached home price: $558,000
Average condominium price: $207,500
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $752
Average annual household spending on shelter: $20,610

Key industries: Agriculture; manufacturing; food processing; education; health care
Notable employers: Chilliwack General Hospital; Chilliwack School District; Convergys Corp.; Hub International Ltd.; Rainbow Greenhouses Inc.; RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre; Save-On-Foods; Stó:lō Nation; Tycrop Manufacturing Ltd.; University of the Fraser Valley
Regional unemployment: 4% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $309,323,597
Change from 2016: 42.4%
Average processing time for a building permit: 120 days
Cost of a business licence: $100 plus $0.10-$2 per sq. m. of gross floor area
Business property tax rate: $15.20 per $1,000 of assessed value
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $9.50-$12
Average retail lease rate: $8-$25

Quality of LifeQUALITY OF LIFE
Major post-secondary institutions: Sprott Shaw College; University of the Fraser Valley; Vancouver Career College
Major recreational amenities: Prospera Centre stadium; two leisure centres; two skating rinks; two libraries; two waterparks; Chilliwack Cultural Centre; Chilliwack Museum and Archives; three provincial parks
Key annual events: Greater Vancouver Food Truck Festival; BC Egg Fest; Cascadia Expodition (4WD event); Chilliwack Fair; Vintage in the Valley Motorcycle Show; Ride to Conquer Cancer Chilliwack
Average annual household spending on recreation: $4,456
Residents who walk or bike to work: 3.6%