Promoting Vancouver Lite to Entice Vancouverites to Smaller Cities

“Place-based” marketing has become an effort gaining traction throughout the province as rural BC communities look to employ strategies encouraging talent retention, looking to take from cities such as Vancouver and Calgary.

Looking to more of a Vancouver Lite approach to marketing smaller BC cities.

In reference to Prince George and Quesnel’s recent campaigns to entice Vancouverites northward, a “place-based” marketer says they are “a brilliant idea.”

“Now’s the time to be doing this,” said Tom Gierasimczuk of Resonance Consultancy. “For the next 10, 20 years British Columbian cities are going to be in a battle for talent as well as in a battle for tax base.”

Since the campaign was launched, Prince George has attracted many people to the city, according to economic development officer Melissa Barcellos, though she admits the results so far are anecdotal.

“We’re working on a new process so we can count those numbers and have some better reporting metrics,” she said.

Affordability and balance huge draws to rural regions of BC.

One hundred and twenty kilometres south, the City of Quesnel is embarking on a re-branding campaign in their own effort to appeal to people fed up with the cost of living in Vancouver who may be open to looking northward. One of the first visible efforts in the campaign is the changing of the city slogan from ‘the Gold Pan City’ to ‘It’s In Our Nature’ to broaden their appeal while also trying to leverage the popularity and accessibility of outdoor recreation and pursuits.

“I think part of the issue for the north is that we’re not speaking to that change that’s occurring in the Lower Mainland right through the Okanagan,” said Mayor Bob Simpson.

“People are struggling with the affordability issue. They’re struggling with an unbalanced lifestyle… We’ve got a story to tell where all of that is accessible.”

Vancouverites looking to other markets.

Gierasimczuk and Resonance Consultancy has the numbers to confirm Simpson’s assertions.

The company recently published a report on the future of housing in British Columbia that estimated that 34 per cent of Metro Vancouver homeowners have plans to sell and move to another region in the next five years.

While those Vancouver residents looking to move in the next few years may not be heading north – the report found northern BC is typically the last choice for relocating Metro Vancouver residents, and that for millennials a different province or even country is more desirable than heading north of Hope – there’s huge opportunity available for other rural regions of BC.

However, there’s the issue of how to make moving to one of these other markets, dramatically different than Vancouver, seem appealing beyond just the cost of living.

Vancouver millennials looking or reasonable cost of living without compromising culture, entertainment and excitement.

With regards to millennials, “They want the excitement, they want that density that only happens in cities,” explained Gierasimczuk.

“But Vancouver’s making it incredibly difficult for people to stay, no matter how much they love it.”

To make moving to a smaller market more appealing he suggests that “second-tier” B.C. cities like Prince George and Nelson position themselves as a “Vancouver-lite” by showcasing assets such as post-secondary education and the unique art, entertainment and cultural aspects people in the Lower Mainland are wary about giving up and may very well underestimate in these communities.

“They’ve got to curtail the fear of lack of culture,” he explained, “Saying we’ve got a theatre, we’ve got jobs, we’ve got a university, we’ve got good schools, and we got a house for under three-hundred grand.”

Gierasimczuk also recommended targeting older generations, particularly Gen-Xers, who are “leading the charge” in leaving Vancouver.

“You’re looking at people who are professionally comfortable in what they’re doing. They can or they feel confident that they can work from home and they want their kids to have space. They want to have a yard,” he said.

Leverage welcoming climate for entrepreneurs and startups

When asked about numbers indicating the lack of job growth in areas outside Vancouver, Gierasimczuk said the key is for these other regions to target entrepreneurs and tech startups to move, or start, their businesses in regions outside the Lower Mainland.

With so many more BC cities enjoying high-speed fibre Internet, it’s not a hard sell, particularly given the support for entrepreneurs and business that is becoming so much more accessible.

“Now is the absolute opportune time for cities like Prince George to say, ‘You know what? We’re actually a city too. We’re still in B.C. and we actually offer a lot of good value.’”