Samsung Canada's new Vancouver R&D centre reflects B.C.'s changing economy
Samsung Canada has become the latest high-tech giant to expand its footprint in Vancouver.
On Thursday (November 28), it announced its first Canadian research and development centre has opened in the city.
It comes not long after Microsoft Canada opened a new store in Metropolis at Metrotown. Perhaps not coincidentally, that's where Samsung launched its first Canadian retail outlet last year, which came after an Apple store was established.
Meanwhile, Vancouver-based social-media analytics firm HootSuite has been on a hiring spree after raising $165 million in the summer.
Facebook also set up shop on West Pender Street earlier this year.
Each of these are indications the broader changes taking place in the B.C. economy.
An SFU report earlier this year noted that professional, scientific, and technical services made up $10.3 billion of B.C.'s gross domestic product in 2012.
That has left previous economic mainstays in the dust.
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting—which were central to economic life in the early 20th century—only amounted to $3.4 billion of provincial gross domestic product in 2012. That's less than a third of the value of the sector comprising high-tech companies.
The Samsung Canada research and development facility will provide global technical support for the B2B [business to business] customers.
According to H.T. Kim, the president and CEO of Samsung Canada, B.C. has become a hub for technological innovation.
"With a skilled Canadian talent base to draw from, the team will help Samsung continue to lead the industry—both at home and abroad—by driving product innovation," Kim said in a company news release.
Meanwhile, BC Stats released a report in October tracking 41 business and economic-climate indicators that can influence the growth of the province's high-tech sector.
In many areas, B.C. is performing very well in comparison to other provinces, notably in its "strong educational attainment in the general population".
In 2012, 84.8 percent of British Columbians 15 years and older had a high-school diploma, which was the highest ratio in the country. Ontario and Quebec were only at 77 percent and 81.7 percent, respectively.
B.C. universities have done well in securing technology licences and patents, with UBC leading the country in the amount of income it generates from this area.
The province ranked third in business research and development spending in proportion to gross domestic product.
On the downside, B.C.-based businesses have not fared as well as counterparts in other provinces in obtaining patents.
And the number of B.C. graduates in architecture, engineering, and related technologies is still below the Canadian average.
The high-tech sector is known for its volatility. As HootSuite was expanding in October, Pixar Canada was shutting down its operations in Vancouver.
The local video-game industry has also gone through booms and busts, most notably with the flight of jobs to places like Montreal, where the provincial government is less greedy in taxing this sector. And the SFU report indicated that there is still a small pool of executive talent and a lack of critical mass in the overall B.C. technology sector.
But the report also noted that there is an opportunity to build a comparative advantage in the green-clean tech industries. That's been a priority of Mayor Gregor Robertson.
In the meantime, giants like Facebook and Samsung seem to have discovered something worthwhile in Vancouver, justifying substantial investments.
That's more than can be said for most other cities in North America.