Three of North America’s fastest growing cities—Vancouver, Seattle and Portland—have banded together to form the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, and shared interests and opportunities were the focus of the 3rd annual Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference held in Vancouver last month.
The conference offered a deeper look into some of the initiatives already underway and charting a path forward for the Cascadia Innovation Corridor—from Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, to building successful regional economic partnerships, to improved cross-border commuting options. (Earlier this year, daily seaplane service between Vancouver and Seattle—already dubbed the “nerd bird”—launched to cut down daily commute. And feasibility studies are now underway to assess a possible high-speed rail connection between British Columbia and Oregon.)
Change happens when tone is set from the top
It looked like there is a bit of bromance happening between the Honourable John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, who sat down to talk about common values and their shared passion for sport and fitness. But that shared purpose went deeper, as they expressed their mutual concern for the environment and climate change, and healthy competition for skilled talent between our two knowledge-based economies. The willingness to move past talk to action will be the big hurdle in bringing the Cascadia vision to life.
Tech out West
Greater Seattle area is home to tech giants including Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia to name only a few, and with more than 9,500 tech companies, B.C. is Canada’s #1 startup ecosystem (and #15 globally). Our natural proximity to Seattle and Silicon Valley has also attracted large tech companies to open up shop in Vancouver (Apple just announced a major corporate office for Vancouver opening in 2020).
B.C.’s strong and flourishing tech ecosystem is anchored by industry titans and startups alike (B.C. is home to three out of five Canadian unicorns including Avigilon, Hootsuite and Slack), government and academia. There’s a tech event taking place virtually every day in the city (don’t miss the recently launched 2019 #BCTECH Summit, the largest tech and innovation event in B.C.).
British Columbia and Washington are leading Canada and the U.S. in GDP growth, and there has never been a better time for Cascadia to spring into action with a strategy focused on the needs of our emerging economy. From developing and retaining talent, addressing issues of affordability and livability, to collaborating on opportunities to attract new businesses and capital investment— we must build on our competitive advantages and shared “left coast” sensibilities and to truly compete and emerge a hub of innovation and commerce on the global stage.
It’s our time.
——— Lindsay Chan is a former Vice-President at NATIONAL Public Relations