COMOX VALLEY – Lifestyle.

That’s the overwhelming reason given by many of the over 400 members of the Facebook group titled Comox Valley Tech Talk as one of the biggest benefits of living and working in the Comox Valley.

The combination of local lifestyle and recreation opportunities and community facilities, along with weather that permits skiing at Mt. Washington Alpine Resort in the morning and golfing at courses like Crown Isle in the afternoon, are unique to Vancouver Island.

Not to mention the “10 minute commute” from here to everywhere in the Comox Valley, which is extremely attractive to those wishing to escape the snarled traffic congestion of the Lower Mainland.

Comox Valley Economic Development Society Executive Director John Watson firmly believes that lifestyle is part of the “Comox Valley Advantage”, and a reason why the technology sector is thriving and growing.

People want to live, work and play in the Valley.

“The Comox Valley is growing as a home to technology professionals and entrepreneurs who have chosen to change the way they live, work and play,” says Watson.

“No longer are we destined to live in traditional urban environments to ply our trade while struggling to maintain or attain a comfortable lifestyle. The Comox Valley offers the comforts of the city, from breweries, restaurants and burgeoning arts and culture, as well as the benefits of living in an affordable, livable, recreation-rich and family-friendly Vancouver Island location.

“It’s a perfect mix for those seeking a work /life balance, and interested in being part of a growing tech oriented business community.”

No longer are employees destined to live in traditional urban environments to ply their trades while struggling to maintain or attain a comfortable lifestyle, he adds, noting regularly scheduled flights at Comox Valley Airport make it easy to get in and out of the Valley, which is a must for many businesses.

Consider these comments from transplanted technology workers:

“I previously lived and worked in Toronto and then Vancouver. The design and technology sector in those cities has a very strong presence and is a widely celebrated economic driver,” says one, noting there are a large number of people working in the tech industry from home.

“Working in tech has allowed me live, work and play here while earning revenue from mostly outside the Comox Valley. I didn’t move here for all the possibilities in tech, but because working in tech made it possible to move here.”

Another notes: “Living in the Comox Valley has allowed me to take risks I couldn’t have in a big city. The cost of living is much lower, and quality of life is better. Because of this, I’m able to try new things that aren’t guaranteed to be an overnight moneymaker.”

Then this:

“There’s a lot of people out here that are doing interesting work in various tech related fields, but a lot of them are doing it remotely. As a result, if you don’t know that’s what they do, you’d have no way of figuring that out,” says an operations engineer working remotely for an international company.

“We chose the Comox Valley because it’s a small town with great community, easy access to mountains and ocean, affordable housing, and being closer to California and Washington makes it easier to get to tech conferences.”

Research shows the Comox Valley is attracting the best and brightest from all over. From professionals who work remotely for startups and large corporations, to consultants, entrepreneurs, to locals just starting out. Designers and developers, marketers and analysts, scientists and engineers, business types and executives, live and work in the area.

Examples of local technology operations that attract highly educated and motivated staff include the Deep Bay Research Centre, which is a key research facility for Vancouver Island University. Because it is located on the balmier east coast of Vancouver Island, it makes it easily accessible to important community amenities.

North Island College has the Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI), which connects staff and students with local businesses and organizations to develop innovative solutions to current challenges. CARTI’s goal is to connect communities through research, and does so by offering services to support research project development, project management and funding.

19 Wing Comox is at the Canadian Forces Base Comox, and their Aurora crews keep watch over the ocean looking for illegal fishing, migration, drugs and pollution in addition to foreign submarines. Its CC-115 Buffalo Aircraft and CH-149 Cormorant Helicopters are staffed and maintained at the base, preparing them to carry out search and rescue operations in the busiest region in Canada.

One of the most exciting arrivals in the Comox Valley is the Anandia Cannabis Innovation Center, which opened recently in Comox.

Anandia, whose headquarters are in Vancouver, has been voted the Top Cannabis Testing Lab in Canada. It now has a highly trained team set up in the Comox Valley facility for cannabis testing, genetics, and research, where they study everything from microbial contaminants to foreign matter in quality-control testing services that ensure safe and saleable products.

The Comox Valley Tech Talk group is an unofficial “support group” that provides an idea of the scope of the industry. Nanaimo-based Innovation Island also offers connections and start-up tips for Comox Valley tech workers and companies.

Community Tech Groups.

As stated, many of these companies comfortably operate within the friendly confines of home. But for those who need to get out and change their environment, or even if they are in a pinch, there are a number of worker-friendly cafes and restaurants offering WiFi services. There are also shared workspaces like Coastal Co-working and Creator Space in Courtenay.

Watson sees even brighter days ahead for the Comox Valley tech sector, as North Island College offers one and two-year digital design and web development programs, and Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo also offers courses that are preparing the next wave of tech workers.

“The local tech workforce has been under development for several years at both the secondary and post secondary levels,” he notes. “Local secondary schools offer digital design and engineering courses and sport robotics teams that compete internationally.”