Campbell River is a city on the move.
Matthew Gionet was born and raised in this seaside Vancouver Island community of more than 36,000 people and has witnessed its evolution from a bedrock resource industry community to a diverse and increasingly nimble hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.
“My dad and grandad worked at the pulp and paper mill when it was Fletcher Challenge, and I worked there too,” Gionet says.
In the late 90s, he moved to Vancouver to pursue a career in sound design and editing. In 2011, Gionet returned to Campbell River to launch his own company, Earworm Sound, which works with clients in video game design and documentary filmmaking around the world. Lifestyle and affordability were the kickers for Gionet.
The same goes for Rose Klukas. When she arrived in 2016 to head up economic development for Campbell River, there was a buzz and sense of optimism returning after a decade of economic slump caused by major mill closures in the 2000s. Though fishing and forestry are still key to Campbell River’s DNA, Klukas discovered a community ready to leverage its location, affordability and natural attributes to grow a more diverse economy.
“We knew there was a lot more potential for tech and innovation,” Klukas says.
City of Campbell RiverThey were right. The same year Klukas moved to Campbell River, the city installed a city-wide broadband network dubbed the CRadvantage. It gave a big boost to local entrepreneurs.
From a lifestyle perspective, Campbell River is an easy sell. The city sits between mountains and ocean, the gateway to Vancouver Island’s stunning Strathcona Provincial Park, and the Discovery Islands. Within a few minutes drive of the city’s compact waterfront downtown, you can be mountain biking in Snowden Demonstration Forest or trail running in the Beaver Lodge Forest Lands. Or you might choose to jig for salmon in the crystal waters of Discovery Passage or simply enjoy some fish and chips on the pier.
Although on a map Campbell River might seem remote, it’s not.
The city is located halfway up the east coast of Vancouver Island and is well-connected with the rest of the Island and the Lower Mainland. Campbell River Airport is a short 35-minute flight from YVR, with four to five flights daily between the two cities.
City of Campbell RiverSeveral years ago, Campbell River struck up a unique partnership with a group of successful tech innovators and investors dubbed CRAAG (Campbell River Area Angel Group), all of whom have settled in the area in a recent years. It was a case of the right idea at the right time with the right people. It started with the creation of Tech Hatchery, a hub for connecting entrepreneurs with one another, with investors, and with business supports. Then came NexStream Tech Competition, a Dragon’s Den style challenge that offers up cash prizes, business mentorship and the possibility of investment.
Campbell River and CRAAG apply the term “tech” broadly—in other words, it’s more than just IT. They’re also taking a global view, underpinned by the goal of growing and diversifying Campbell River’s economy in a thoughtful way, but also guided by a willingness to build bridges between the city and entrepreneurs and innovators, wherever they may be.
Campbell River is a small city with big aspirations and local talent, honoring its timber and fishing roots, and moving forward with confidence and creativity.
Learn more | campbellriver.ca