Labour Force Data
The resource-based industries that once dominated the local economy have been surpassed by growth in the retail, sales, tourism, service, wholesale trade, construction, and health and education sectors. 2011 Census information from the National Household Survey (NHS) for the Parksville and Qualicum Beach area (commonly referred to as Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region) indicates the largest portion of the labour force participates in these top three occupations: sales and service (25%), trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (15%) and business, finance and administration (14%). In the last six years, 17% of jobs posted on the Career Centre website were for retail salespersons, cooks and food and beverage servers.
Domination by Small Business and Self-Employment
Small business is the largest employer in the area which has a small-town atmosphere and lifestyle, yet Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region is still close to airports and ferries, which attracts new businesses and entrepreneurs. The 2008 Canadian Federation of Independent Business Report on Top Entrepreneurial Cities rated Parksville the second most entrepreneurial city in Canada. Even in an economic downturn, the City of Parksville reported a growth in new business in the last few years.
The Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region region is a Vancouver Island tourism destination. The majority of business in the area is based on tourism. The 2011 Census information from the NHS indicated retail trade as being the number one industry in Parksville and Qualicum, health care the second, with accommodation and food service being the third largest industry in the Parksville and Qualicum area. The local tourism association’s report, Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region’s Tourism Economy: An Assessment of the Value of Tourism in Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region, estimates 40% of local businesses report tourism spending is either their primary or secondary source of revenue. One of the longest-standing and largest tourism industry employers in the area, Tigh-Na-Mara Spa and Resort, employs approximately 290 employees. The tourism industry has continued to grow and, in addition to new restaurants and attractions, new resorts opening in the past few years include The Beach Club, Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region Village Resort, Sunrise Ridge and most recently the Qualicum Beach Inn. According to Blain Sepos, Executive Director of Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism, they are anticipating a prosperous summer for Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region hotels and tourist attractions. "We've had a number of stakeholders mention they were getting double-digit increases." Tourism and the high number of retirees also create spin-off businesses to meet the recreation needs of this demographic. The area includes seven golf courses and these businesses often post for positions. Retail trade is another component of the tourism industry and this region includes a number of smaller gift and retail shops as well as other supporting retailers, such as gasoline stations. The major employers in retail trade include grocery store chains such as Thrifty’s, Quality Foods and Save-On-Foods.
Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region’s beaches, mild climate, small town lifestyle, relatively low real estate prices (compared to major centers) and access to abundant outdoor activities attract many new residents every month. Many of these are semi-retired professionals. The 2011 Census reports the Parksville median age as 58.2 and the Qualicum Beach median age as 63.9, significantly higher than the BC average of 41.9. The older demographic creates opportunities in recreation and wellness. The community has many golf courses, health food stores and fitness centers.
The region also supports the health needs of the aging population. The major employer for health services is Island Health (previously known at Vancouver Island Health Authority). There are several pharmacies and five large assisted living facilities in the area. The 2011 Census information from the NHS indicates health care and social assistance as the second largest industry in Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region with 12% of the labour force participating in this industry. This number has increased with the opening of large assisted living facilities in Parksville and Qualicum in the last few years: Stanford Place, employing approximately 230 employees; and The Gardens, employing approximately 200 employees. Recently the Oceanside Primary and Urgent Care Centre opened and this created more opportunities for LPN’s, RN’s and medical office personnel.
There are a number of niche businesses that can be found in the hidden job market. Many of these are new businesses and include knowledge-based companies, such as web hosting companies and software developers. Other niche businesses include high-tech manufacturers (such as an electric vehicle manufacturer), specialty mills and food producers. Another company, Blue Coast Group, currently employs 20 staff and specializes in mineral processing and has a metallurgical test-work facility. We recently wrote a wage subsidy agreement for an apprentice silver/goldsmith in Qualicum Beach. Aquaculture is also a growing industry in the area featuring world class scallop and oyster farms.
Local construction is slowly recovering from the economic downturn. There are some residential developments taking place as well as some local commercial/residential buildings such as a new Save On Foods store. There is an increased demand for construction labourers. Other employers in construction related industries, such as ship building and steel detailing have contacted the Career Centre in search of skilled employees.
Aquaculture is a growing industry in the area and in Electoral Area H, Shaw Hill, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay and Bowser. There are productive scallop and oyster farms, such as Island Scallops, which employ approximately 35 people and Odyssey and Stellar Bay Shellfish. Vancouver Island University recently opened Deep Bay Marine Station, north of Qualicum Beach.
Agriculture and agri-tourism are growing industries in the area. Qualicum Beach and Errington Farmers’ Markets provide the platform for many small farms to sell their goods. Speciality farms such as Duckett Truffieres, Nanoose Edibles, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Vancouver Island Wasabi are mouting in popularity. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks employs approximately 15 people and is a growing business that has responded to the thriving food and tourism market.
There are a number of speciality mills in Electoral Area F that often post on the CVIJOBS job posting site and employ a number of residents in the area. Mills in Electoral Area F include Errington Cedar Products and Aqulia Cedar Products. Another speciality mill, Long Hoh Enterprises Canada Ltd., located in Qualicum Beach employs approximately 60 people.
Although manufacturing is not a key industry in the area, there are niche manufacturing businesses thriving in the region. One example is Canadian Electric Vehicles (CEV). This company has been in business for over 20 years. CEV has been designing and manufacturing electric vehicles and components in their Parksville plant. CEV is a local success story as an employer and corporate citizen, and has a far-reaching client base that includes provincial and federal governments, private individuals and corporate clients in eight countries. Other small manufacturers include Lightspeed Kayaks, Express Custom Trailers, Coastal Colour Printing and Wellington Foundry.
School District 69 is the largest employer in the area, with approximately 800 employees. Vancouver Island University has a Parksville/Qualicum campus based in Parksville and is active in the community.
Emerging Industries: Due to the lifestyle in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region area, high tech businesses have chosen to locate here. These include web hosting companies such as Bravenet and Hosting Nation, to software development companies such as TradeTec Computer Systems, USNR and One Step Systems. In addition many solopreneurs developing games and working with the film industry have located to the area. The town of Qualicum Beach has opened a digital media studio to help attract and support people who work in the technology sector. The film industry is another growing industry and Vancouver Island North Film Commission promotes the area to prospective clients.
Future opportunities for business will continue to increase in health care and tourism. Many people move to the region in the 10 years before they plan to retire. The majority of these people are skilled professionals who have done well in their careers before moving to the island. These people tend to be healthy and active and willing to invest in the community spending their money on housing and recreation. There is still an untapped opportunity to meet the recreation needs of the younger “baby boomers”.
The 2003 Parksville Economic Development Strategy Update identifies opportunities for future economic growth in Parksville. These opportunities continue today and include:
- High tech internet based businesses
- Light industrial development
- Retail and service commercial development
- Downtown Parksville development
- Home-based business
- Tourism recreation, including arts and culture
- Retirement living
- Health and wellness