For our 4th an­nual re­port on WHERE TO WORK NOW, we hit the road to Daw­son Creek and Camp­bell River

BC Business Magazine - - Front Page - by NICK ROCKEL

What are Bri­tish Columbia’s top places to build a ca­reer? Start by fol­low­ing the money, but that isn’t the whole story. In our fourth an­nual Best Cities for Work in B.C. rank­ing, com­piled with re­search part­ner En­vi­ron­ics An­a­lyt­ics, we mea­sure a city’s at­trac­tive­ness as a place to work by putting a two-thirds weight­ing on how much res­i­dents earn and where in­come is head­ing. We use the seven eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors from the pre­vi­ous sur­vey: av­er­age house­hold in­come, house­hold in­come for pri­mary earn­ers un­der age 35, av­er­age house­hold spend­ing on recre­ation, av­er­age shel­ter costs, five-year pop­u­la­tion growth, five-year in­come growth and un­em­ploy­ment rate.

North­east oil-and- gas pow­er­houses Fort St. John and Daw­son Creek re­turn to the top three, with the for­mer tak­ing the lead from Squamish (No. 3 this year) and the lat­ter climb­ing to No. 2. Lower Main­land res­i­dents might find those com­mu­ni­ties’ stay­ing power sur­pris­ing, given the per­sis­tent slump in fos­sil fuel prices and last sum­mer’s can­cel­la­tion of the Pa­cific Northwest liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas megapro­ject. But any­one who’s vis­ited Daw­son Creek (see page 32) knows that the city is con­tend­ing with a boom fu­elled by multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ment in oil and gas ex­trac­tion and in­fra­struc­ture.

This year, to bet­ter gauge qual­ity of life, we also take into ac­count how many peo­ple walk or bike to work—ar­guably a bet­ter yard­stick than the num­ber who use pub­lic

tran­sit. “The is­sue with mass tran­sit is that it’s not go­ing to be avail­able in all cities,” says Peter Miron, Toronto-based vice-president, de­mo­graphic and eco­nomic data, with En­vi­ron­ics An­a­lyt­ics. “Walk­ing and bi­cy­cling to work are en­joy­able ac­tiv­i­ties,” Miron adds. “Mass tran­sit might be cheap, but it’s not nec­es­sar­ily adding to your en­joy­ment of life.”

When it comes to walk­ing and bik­ing, you’d think ur­ban cen­tres like Van­cou­ver would have an edge. But our three top cities—all rel­a­tively small com­mu­ni­ties—did well in that cat­e­gory, too. “You’ve got a very strong ac­ces­si­bil­ity fac­tor, but it’s al­most pick­ing up not nec­es­sar­ily ur­ban­ity as much as quaint­ness,” Miron notes.

He warns against fix­at­ing on un­em­ploy­ment rates, which have dropped in most B.C. re­gions as the prov­ince builds on its strong eco­nomic per­for­mance in 2016. “If you see an area with very a low un­em­ploy­ment rate, it could be be­cause ev­ery­one’s got a job,” Miron says. “But it could also mean that ev­ery­one who doesn’t have a job has now been so dis­cour­aged look­ing for work that they’re no longer in the labour force.”

Al­though the rank­ing shows where our 36 cities placed last year, those that climbed or fell shouldn’t make too much of it—and not just be­cause we tweaked the method­ol­ogy. As Miron ex­plains, the data sets his firm uses get up­dated from year to year, some­times lead­ing to re­vi­sions of his­tor­i­cal num­bers. In any case, “the dif­fer­ence be­tween mid­dle cities is quite slim,” he says. For those com­mu­ni­ties, a small change in, say, five-year in­come growth can make a big dif­fer­ence in rank­ing or­der.

By the same stan­dard, where they fetch up on the list won’t be the de­cid­ing fac­tor for any­one weigh­ing where to move, Miron reck­ons. “At that point, it’s prob­a­bly a choice be­tween the at­tributes that we haven’t got in the study: the charm of Camp­bell River, and the fact that Ver­non hap­pens to be next to a beau­ti­ful ski re­sort,” he says. “But whether or not you want to move there is go­ing to be based more upon per­sonal pref­er­ence. There’s no bad choice.”

This year, to bet­ter gauge qual­ity of life, we also take into ac­count how many peo­ple walk or bike to work–ar­guably a bet­ter yard­stick than the num­ber who use pub­lic tran­sit. “The is­sue with mass tran­sit is that it's not go­ing to be avail­able in all cities” – Peter Miron, En­vi­ron­ics An­a­lyt­ics

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