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Population

12,318

Population density

2,410.6/km2 (6,243.3/sq mi)

Land area

5.11 km2 (1.97 sq mi)

Territory

Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum, Pauquachin & Malahat Nations

Main Industries

manufacturing, aviation, tourism

When Michael Ghaly immigrated to Canada from Egypt, he was looking for a business to buy and a place to live. For him, Sidney made sense on many levels. “Its downtown is so close to the waterfront and highly walkable,” he says, “and there’s such a strong sense of community here. At Taco Shell, my restaurant, 70% of my customers are regulars. This is a town that takes care of its people.”

Situated on the north-easternmost tip of the Saanich Peninsula, the Town of Sidney is a charming, vibrant community of just over 12,000, about 26 kilometres north of downtown Victoria.

The Town’s north, south and west boundaries are shared with the District of North Saanich. To the east, Sidney overlooks Haro Strait (Salish Sea), the Southern Gulf Islands, and the Northern San Juan Islands (U.S.A.).

Dubbed ‘the home of the Centre of the Salish Sea,’ Sidney boasts pedestrian-friendly retail districts, welcomes the most recreational boats per capita, and is a magnet for tourists, retirees and entrepreneurs looking for a home base that suits their lifestyle.

Business Climate

As British Columbia’s economic growth continues to outpace the rest of Canada, Sidney is becoming ever more attractive for those looking to locate companies in active, business-friendly communities. The town enjoys a balanced mix of retail, industrial, marine and manufacturing districts. Its median household income is $63,840.

Entrepreneurial spirit: Sidney is predominately made up of small businesses. Representing Sidney’s largest segment are companies with less than 9 employees, with over 50 percent of local businesses made up of between 1 and 5 employees. 

Shelly Dumais, owner of Active Balance Physiotherapy, says she chose to locate her business in Sidney because “people look after each other, they’re very loyal. They have the means to support and choose locally owned businesses over big box business. They always talk about six degrees of separation but on the peninsula, it’s more like three. We’re closer to each other, we’re more connected and that is what makes this community special.”

Open for business: The town’s municipal hall is renowned for its support and encouragement of independent local business, offering a commercial tax reduction of 10% during the pandemic that will continue indefinitely, as well as permissive tax exemptions for projects that will enhance the region.

Climate champions: Sidney is also committed to doing its part in climate change mitigation, hiring a Climate Action Coordinator to identify net zero opportunities and installing electric vehicle charging stations. It endorses and encourages participation in CleanBC Better Buildings program for energy efficient design, construction and renovation of residential and commercial buildings. 

Transportation Hub: Regionally, the Town of Sidney is known as a transportation hub. Minutes away is the Victoria International Airport and the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, which connect southern Vancouver Island to the Gulf Islands and the BC Mainland. The only Canadian Port of Call for the Washington State Ferry system connects Sidney to Anacortes, Washington. 

Its proximity to Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle enhance the attraction of Sidney as a centre for technological innovation, business development and economic investment.

Marine research and innovation hub: Its location on the Georgia Strait and connection to transportation routes make Sidney an ideal environment for both marine industry and ocean research and innovation. It’s home to the provincial association for marine industries, near to the federally operated Institute of Ocean Sciences, and the University of Victoria’s Marine Technology Centre, and receptive to entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in the blue economy. 

Community Assets

Sidney offers an enticing mix of opportunities, positioned in clusters that complement each other. The town’s business park hosts a variety of high-tech, aviation, and manufacturing companies, while its scenic downtown provides a vibrant retail, restaurant and service centre. 

West Sidney Industrial Area: West of the Pat Bay Highway sits one of the metropolitan region’s main centres for world-class industrial and light industrial companies. Companies like Viking Air, Nicholson Manufacturing, Scott Plastics, SeaStar Chemical, Straitline Components, Titan Boats and Stantec draw talent from across the region. 

In 2022, Amazon opened its first Vancouver Island distribution centre in Sidney, employing over 150 local residents for its ‘last-mile’ delivery service.

Its location, adjacent to the Victoria International Airport (Canada’s 9th busiest airport), the Swartz Bay Ferry terminal (the busiest route in BC), and the #17 Pat Bay Highway (into the heart of the metro-region), make this area ideal for many employers. 

Harbour Road Marine Business Park: As its name implies, this is a marine entrepreneur or business operator’s mecca – home of full service marinas, chandlery, yacht concierge service, and custom boat building. In fact, someone once concluded that there are more recreational marine slips in Sidney than in the entire country of Japan. The business park is ideally situated for connections to Greater Victoria, the Gulf Islands, Washington and Seattle.

A Vibrant and Walkable Downtown: The combination of a beautiful waterfront with its accessible seawalks in close proximity to shopping, dining and accommodation sees tourists and Greater Victoria residents flock to Sidney’s bustling downtown area, with pedestrian counters tracking over one million visits in 2021. For those looking for local, loyal, friendly customers, Sidney has proved to be a boon for business.

Opportunities

Sidney has a robust business base and a desire to balance its small town charm with a progressive approach to growing its economy, embracing new ideas and projects and working to attract new business and a younger population. 

Erik Twist, owner of Dutch Green Design, is originally from the Netherlands. He says “Sidney is a great place to do business from. When we moved to the town, the mayor came by to welcome us and it felt more personal. The BIA is active and involved and the municipality does a lot for business, including waiving licenses due to COVID and making them easy to apply for.” 

Here are some of the opportunities the town has identified:

Diversify retail mix: Their Downtown Retail Gap Analysis provides a snapshot of how Sidney’s population is served by these business segments, and identifies categories that may be over and under served, including demographic trends, spending trends, and retail opportunities now and in the future.

Massive opportunities in the film industry: In 2020 dozens of movies and TV series were shot on Vancouver Island, injecting $50 million dollars into the economy. The hit Netflix series Maid was among those shot in Sidney in 2021, and experts predict continued growth for the industry as locals lobby for film studios to be built on the Saanich Peninsula and the Malahat.

Welcoming young entrepreneurs: Sidney’s population is characterized by a high number of residents aged over 65, and the town wants to welcome an influx of young business owners and their families. The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce says they’re also prioritizing supporting young entrepreneurs with the guidance, mentorship and support they need to be successful.

City Hall’s growth priorities: The Town works constantly to optimize and revitalize access and engagement in Sidney’s downtown core and to foster growth and innovation for specialty manufacturing companies in West Sidney Industrial Park. 

Their Smart Growth program, as outlined in their Official Community Plan, emphasizes compact, mixed use and high density development,  in a manner that allows people to live in proximity to the downtown core, protecting sensitive areas while promoting multi-modal transportation. 

Affordable Housing: Though the region, like many others across Canada, is challenged by the affordable housing crisis, Sidney is still one of the most affordable places to live in the Peninsula. The town aims to maintain affordability by densifying around its downtown core.

The Right Fit for You?

If you’re looking for a progressive municipality open to innovation and entrepreneurship, the Town of Sidney may be the perfect fit.

In addition to its welcoming environment, commitment to supporting its local business community and enthusiastic support of innovation, the town is well positioned to take advantage of the surrounding landscape, which offers plenty of outdoor adventures.

It’s also perfectly situated for access to the lower mainland and the U.S., providing limitless opportunities for business growth.

Interested in learning more? Contact the team at South Island Prosperity Partnership.

History

The W̱SÁNEĆ peoples, who have lived in the Saanich Peninsula for thousands of years, are represented today by W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip), SȾÁUTW̱(Tsawout), and W̱SIḴEM (Tseycum), BOḰEĆEN (Pauquachin), and MÁLEXEȽ (Malahat) First Nations. 

Their language is SENĆOŦEN, and the site which the Town of Sidney now sits on is called “SET,TINES”, which means “chest sticking out,” in reference to the way the land juts out into the water. 

European settlement began in the 1860s and 1870s with the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company, with land primarily given over to farming. William and Charles Reay were its first settlers. It was incorporated as a village on September 30, 1952, and as Sidney in 1891 by the Brethour brothers, who incorporated their farms into the municipality, naming it after nearby Sidney Island, which itself was named in 1859 for Frederick W. Sidney of the Royal Navy.  

In 1894 the Victoria and Sidney Railway opened, with Julius Brethour as its first President, and by the early 1900s local industries included a roofing factory, a cannery and a large sawmill. 

During the 1920s and 1930s several fires and competition from the mainland destroyed Sidney’s early industries. Sidney officially became a Town in 1967.