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Population

91,867

Population density

4,723.2/km2 (12,233.1/sq mi)

Land area

19.45 km2 (7.51 sq mi)

Territory

Songhees Nation

Main Industries

retail, technology, tourism

“There’s just this incredible vibe and a vital energy.” That’s how Humaira Ahmed, founder of Locelle, describes Victoria’s urban core. Humaira moved from Vancouver to Victoria and chose to locate her business headquarters in the city. “It seems counter-intuitive to start a business you want to grow globally, and move to a smaller metropolis to launch it,” she says, “but it just felt right.”

Rated #2 in the world by Conde Nast in its 2022 Best Cities Readers Choice Awards, Victoria is one of those places where you are energized by new ideas in a business community known for its innovative approaches, and can disconnect from the hustle in an ancient rainforest just a few kilometres away.

Victoria’s urban core wraps itself around a bustling harbour whose planes and ferries provide access to the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the world. It is world-famous for its historic buildings, unique local stores, internationally renowned restaurants and “bucket-list worthy” tourist attractions, like the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Royal BC Museum.

The city features a neighbourhood mix of sleek, modern high rises and funky, heritage homes, a vibrant downtown and a community fiercely committed to supporting local business. 

About 92,000 people call Victoria home. It is one of the most gender diverse cities in Canada, with almost 1% of residents identifying as transgender or non-binary. 

Business Climate

The average household income in the City of Victoria is $53,126 and the average age of its residents is 42.8. It’s also a diverse city – roughly 16% of its residents have moved here from other parts of the world.

Portuguese-born Marco Pimentel, CMO of Redbrick, came to Victoria as a youngster to pursue his post-secondary education and 20 years later, he’s still here. He says “Victoria’s the perfect size. I travel a lot for work, but I’m always happy to come home. There’s a strong sense of community and lots of new people to meet, and you can work hard and play hard and balance your lifestyle. It’s like the California of Canada.”

Gateway to B.C. and the Pacific Northwest: Victoria’s inner harbour hosts several transportation options, including helicopter, seaplane and ferry services, which shepherd passengers to Seattle, Port Angeles, Vancouver and beyond, providing ready access to the rest of the world. Victoria is a 1.5 hour ferry ride or 20 minute flight to Vancouver and a harbour-to-harbour 45 minute flight from Victoria to Seattle. 

Modern meets heritage: Victoria’s classic turn-of-the century homes are an interesting contrast to the many high-rise condos springing up around its downtown core, attracting thousands of new residents in the last five years. 

Walkable, bikeable: Victoria is reinventing its core transportation corridor, encouraging people to bike, walk or bus their way to work. In fact, it’s been recognized as having one of the highest numbers of bicycle commuters in Canada.

A storied past: Buildings and public art tell the visual stories of the people who built the city. Along the inner causeway and out to Vic West, the Songhees Nation’s 7 Signs of the Lekwungen walking or canoe tour tells the story of Indigenous peoples who settled here thousands of years ago.

Fisgard Street is home to the oldest and most intact Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America, while Fan Tan alley’s claim to fame is being the narrowest commercial street.

A few miles away is Craigdarroch Castle , built by industrialist Robert Dunsmuir, and Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of B.C.

Vibrant culture: The city’s brimming with creativity, expressed through visual, musical and theatrical art, like the annual multi-day Rifflandia Music Festival is one of Canada’s largest modern rock and pop music festivals. It’s also home to award-winning restaurants, craft breweries and pubs, whose offerings reflect a uniquely West-coast vibe.

Where green meets blue: The urban core is surrounded by water and forest. On weekends you’ll often find locals grabbing a coffee in Cook Street Village before taking a meandering walk through the 182-acre Beacon Hill Park (stopping to the petting zoo to hang out with baby goats) and continuing along to the Dallas Road waterfront trail with its stunning Salish Sea views.

Community Assets

In naming Victoria number one on its 2023 list of 25 Best Small Cities in Canada, bestcities.org writes: “This city is seemingly engineered for the post-pandemic, seize-the-day, work-from-home lifestyle sought by those privileged enough to appreciate such ease of mobility, while it genuinely pursues equality for its residents and an overdue collaboration with the 10 First Nations who’ve always called this region home.”

Tech industry booming: Advanced technology is Victoria’s largest revenue-producing private industry, with over $3 billion in annual revenues generated by more than 880 tech companies that have over 15,000 direct employees. The annual economic impact of the sector is estimated at more than $4 billion per year.

Tourism a close second: Victoria is a major tourism destination. More than four million overnight visitors visit the city every year, contributing over $2 billion to the local economy.

Seat of government: Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, and its parliamentary buildings occupy a prime position in the inner harbour. 

Access to talent and tech innovation: Greater Victoria is home to world-class post-secondary institutions The University of Victoria, Royal Roads University and Camosun College. UVic’s Coast Capital Innovation Centre provides support and mentorships for emerging entrepreneurs, while Camosun Innovates is home to the Camosun Technology Access Centre (CTAC), an applied research and innovation centre that provides dedicated access to specialized technology, equipment and expertise to local and regional companies. 

Welcoming new faces: The City of Victoria values diversity in its population and its business base, encouraging immigration and supporting newcomers.

Spirit of innovation: If Victoria was to put up a billboard advertising its opportunities, it might simply say ‘be bold.’ Over the last decade a number of projects have been proposed or begun (like the Arts and Innovation District) to rejuvenate urban spaces and reimagine them as collaborative, creative spaces that encourage new ideas and ways of thinking.

Building sustainable transportation: The city has been expanding its protected bike lane network, making for an easy cycling connection across the new (April 2018) Johnson Street bridge, to the Galloping Goose Trail and E&N rail trail.

Thousands of commuters cycle downtown from communities as far away as the Westshore, Saanich and Sidney each day, and the annual Bike To Work event encourages even more to do so.

Opportunities

“We have an incredibly dynamic business group here in Victoria,” says Marco Pimentel, “especially when it comes to tech. You can build your startup from tiny to massive, right here. You can go from a workforce of five to hundreds. Victoria now has the ability, the capacity and the people to support globally impactful companies.”

Over the next three decades Victoria is expected to grow by an additional 20,000 residents. It hopes to serve current and new residents by building on the advantages of its harbour location, compact urban form, and human-scaled neighbourhoods, becoming a leader in urban sustainability while remaining one of Canada’s most livable cities.

Victoria 3.0: The city’s latest economic development strategy describes Victoria as “a future-ready, globally-fluent influencer and innovator,” and says its goal is to leverage its status as a small powerhouse “and nurture our innovation ecosystem to create a strong and resilient economy that meets our needs now and anticipates the future.”

Accessible city: Victoria’s Official Community Plan focuses on vibrant, walkable villages and town centres while maintaining the downtown core as the heart of the region. It recognizes its unique neighbourhoods and emphasizes sustainable transportation such as walking, cycling, and transit.

Supporting new businesses: The city’s Business Hub aims to make it easier for new and existing businesses to launch or scale, and it is currently looking at ways to expand its support.

Welcoming immigration: Victoria emphasizes the important role of immigration in growing a diverse, thriving economy. It is looking for public feedback as it crafts its Welcoming Cities Strategy, noting economic inclusion is vital in promoting resiliency and new perspectives.

Tourism poised for growth: Destination Greater Victoria notes that according to the UN, 80% of global tourism’s economic activity takes place in coastal communities, with coastal tourism consistently outpacing overall growth worldwide.

The organization says Greater Victoria is “exceptionally well positioned to leverage the growing demand for innovative coastal tourism. Our world-class ocean-based advanced industries, intelligent blend of built and natural environments, and collective commitment to sustainability provide huge opportunities to attract high-yield visitors and new residents.”

Promoting thought leadership: The proposed Arts and Innovation District in the heart of Victoria’s industrial neighbourhood is among the future projects designed to encourage cross-sector collaboration, research and development, and a flourishing arts and culture sector. 

The area is currently a mix of heavy industry, commercial, retail, surface parking lots, recently remediated land owned jointly by the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, craft brewers, and artists and makers. The city says the Arts and Innovation District will be global facing and export oriented and attract companies that anticipate and solve the problems of the 22nd century with a focus on low-carbon prosperity. 

Blue potential: Victoria is emerging as a leader in B.C.’s burgeoning ocean economy, leveraging its assets like the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada, the Victoria Shipyards (operated by Seaspan), the Esquimalt Graving Dock, including Babcock Canada and Lockheed Martin Canada, the Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Camosun Coastal Centre to create a 22nd-century-oriented ocean and marine economic cluster.

Attracting techpreneurs: Victoria’s already home to almost a thousand tech-focused businesses, whose leaders and employees value the global market accessibility, lifestyle balance and small city amenities Victoria has to offer. Organizations like VIATEC continue promoting and supporting those looking to start and scale their tech companies in Victoria.

The Right Fit for You?

 “As an immigrant, I’m always looking for better opportunities and ways to fulfill my dreams,” says Humaira Ahmed, “and Victoria allows for that. Here, I’m part of a tight-knit community of entrepreneurs who want to help each other thrive.” 

Victoria is a compelling combination of old and new, enticing the eye and capturing the imagination with its stunning architecture and rich history. It is a city bursting with creativity, thick with entrepreneurs, driven by innovation and inspired by its stunning natural beauty.

If you’re looking for a place to live and work that is rich with culture and surrounded by the ocean, in Victoria, you’re home.

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

History

Victoria is located on the traditional territory of the Lək̓ʷəŋən People, today known as the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations, who hunted and gathered in the region for thousands of years. Victoria was once a trading centre for a diversity of First Peoples.

Captain James Cook was the first known European to set foot in Victoria, arriving in the spring of 1778. The city itself was founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company on March 14, 1843, as a trading post and fort at the location the Lək̓ʷəŋən People called ‘Camosack,’ meaning ‘Rush of Water.’

In 1858, when gold was discovered on the mainland of B.C. the region experienced a sudden burst of growth as miners and adventurers flocked to Fort Victoria, then the only ocean port and outfitting centre for the gold fields of the Cariboo. 

Governor James Douglas convened the first Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island within Fort Victoria in 1856 and the city was incorporated on August 2, 1862. It is Western Canada’s second oldest European-settled city.

On July 20, 1871, British Columbia became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada and Victoria was proclaimed the Capital City. For quite some time in the nineteenth century, it was the largest city in B.C. and the foremost in trade and commerce.