Michelle Mungall says the key to growing B.C.’s tech sector is encouraging life outside the Lower Mainland.
The Nelson-Creston MLA was part of a small cabinet shuffle last month that saw her move from the energy ministry to the Minister for Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness.
Mungall toured several local tech companies on Tuesday including D-Pace, Traction on Demand and SMRT1 Technologies. She said the feedback was to make rural life a selling point for the sector.
“People in the industry are a bit of a younger demographic and they’re interested in the type of lifestyle where they can grow their family as well as their careers,” said Mungall.
“Nelson, as we all know, offers a phenomenal lifestyle. People are attracted here naturally. Businesses like Traction on Demand, they knew there was a talent core that was untapped, and they could tap it, and they have.”
Life in the Kootenays — and, crucially, away from major cities — has been previously pitched by companies such a Rossland-based Thought Exchange as a draw for workers.
Mungall said the industry also benefits from its ability to offer positions that allow workers to contribute remotely.
“That mobility allows people in that sector to choose where they want to live rather than a job making the choice for them. So tech companies are very savvy to that,” she said.
“When they want to set up a larger venue, they don’t want to have everybody working remotely, they want people to be working together in a location, they’re looking for communities that offer that lifestyle, and B.C. abounds with that. We are simply a case in point here in the Kootenays.”
Mungall also cited forestry and cannabis as two other industries she plans to focus on.
Job losses have mounted over the past year in forestry as high stumpage rates and low supply led to mill closures across the province, despite the industry providing nearly $15 billion in annual exports.
“A lot of our forestry sector has final destination outside our borders,” she said. “So we have to make sure we have good trade relationships, and not just with one trading partner but multiple trading partners whether that be the U.S. or Asia obviously is another fast-paced growing market for commodities.”
As for the cannabis industry, Mungall said she’s already consulted with local stakeholders about what they need to be successful.
She also believes innovations in the tech sector can provide solutions to growing the cannabis industry and stabilizing forestry jobs.
“Building those bridges is something that we need to do,” she said.