Manufacturing Grabs New Foothold in the Kootenays

The Kootenays has always offered the unique draw of the combination of lifestyle and recreation for thousands who have sought out a work-life balance that accommodates their love of both small-town living and the outdoors.

Talk to most and you’ll likely discover that they were seeking a way to earn a living while at the same time enjoying all the wonder and recreation our outdoors has to offer: skiing, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing and so much more. It may have simply been the 360 degree views from the deck where they enjoy their morning coffee.

It’s all, literally, just out your front door!

Everyone’s story is different but what they found was worth staying for.

Diversifying economy offers more opportunity throughout Kootenay region

Historically, there have been any number of opportunities to make a living throughout the region in industries ranging from forestry to mining to tourism. This last decade, with the implementation of high speed Internet and the growth rapidly developing technologies, has seen an explosion of new opportunities in technology and manufacturing in the Kootenays, providing even more possibilities in an increasingly diversified economy, for those wanting to relocate and enjoy the same balance of work and lifestyle that has been bringing people here for generations.

Kootenay manufacturing sector offers tremendous opportunity for further growth and expansion

While business and startups with a foundation in tech and the Internet continue to flourish (you can read more about that HERE), the manufacturing sector has been identified as offering great opportunity to investors in BC by a study commissioned by Imagine Kootenay.

It was identified that there are a few factors at work:

  • Proximity to raw materials as well as the availability of a skilled and experienced workforce is a key attraction to businesses looking to re-locate or establish operations in the Kootenays.
  • Wood product manufacturers as well as food and beverage product producers that choose the Kootenays are able to make use of well established logistics links to ensure efficient supply lines to domestic and international customers.
  • Proximity to the US border allows for easy entry into the whole of the North American market, which currently offers exceptional opportunities due to the favourable exchange rate for exporters.
  • The abundance of reasonably priced industrial land throughout the region adds to the business case.
  • Businesses are able to access numerous resources that assist in strategic planning, access to funding, marketing expertise and many other facets of business support.

Three years ago, the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) and the Kootenay Rockies Innovation Council (KRIC) undertook a survey, consisting of over 120 questions, of 82 businesses in the manufacturing sector.

Through this process, it was revealed that the manufacturing sector within the region has firmly established solid bases of operation and offers tremendous opportunity for further growth and expansion. To aid that growth (as identified in each potential action area), increased, continual and ongoing communication, cooperation and collaboration between business, government, and economic development agencies will be the catalyst for effective implementation and ongoing economic growth of the sectors.

Specialized resources and facilities more accessible to support growth and opportunity

The Kootenay region offers businesses access to a rich vein of valuable agencies, not for profit organizations and governmental departments focused on supporting the business community.

The new MIDAS (Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies) FabLab in Trail is an applied research, commercialization and digital fabrication training facility focused on the metallurgical sector that exists in the region surrounding the Teck Trail Operations smelter. The facility offers $500,000 of the best “FAB”rication equipment for public, academic & commercial use in a newly renovated accessible space with state of the art, enterprise-level equipment and training on equipment including: 3D Printers, 3D scanners, CnC milling equipment, woodworking, an electronics lab, as well as teaching and co-working space.

MIDAS makes recent advances in manufacturing technology (including 3D Printing) accessible to West Kootenay companies, entrepreneurs and students.

“FabLabs are a global network of local labs that are democratizing access to digital fabrications allowing anyone to make almost anything. With the technical goal of FabLabs making FabLabs, together they are asking and answering how we will live, learn, work and play in a world where data can become things and things can become data.”

The rich combination of opportunity, lifestyle, workforce available and real business viability makes manufacturing a sector that garners real interest from within and outside of the region.

For more information on the opportunities in manufacturing and other sectors be sure to contact Imagine Kootenay.