Despite B.C.’s abundant natural resources, the province's high technology sector employs more people than the mining, oil and gas, and forestry sectors combined.
Those high tech workers earned an average of $1,440 a week in 2012, compared to the weekly payout of $870 for the average B.C. worker.
That's according to Profile of the British Columbia High Technology Sector: 2013 Edition, a new report prepared by B.C. Stats for the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, which offers a snapshot of this key area of the economy.
"While the sector as a whole may not rank prominently compared to other high tech jurisdictions, B.C. is home to high tech clusters, such as digital media and biotechnology, which are positioned among the best in the world," the April report concludes.
"B.C.’s high tech sector continues to face challenges, such as a smaller domestic marketplace and an often tight labour market, which may give B.C. companies a competitive disadvantage, particularly with many of their American counterparts, but also with high tech firms in central Canada."
With 84,070 employees in 2012, the tech sector represented 4.3 percent of the province's workforce.
That year, the number of tech businesses was 40,046—9,010 with employees and 31,036 with none.
Revenues in the sector increased 3.5 percent to $23.2 billion in 2012.
"In general, B.C.’s high technology sector tends to outperform the general economy and 2012 was no exception, as the 3.4% growth in high tech GDP was double the rate of growth of the industrial aggregate GDP for the province (1.7%). High technology accounted for approximately 7.6% of British Columbia’s overall economic output in 2012," the report states.
In 2012, exports rose 10.5 percent to $994.3 million, which was the "largest increase since the global economic downturn".
However, according to the report, "British Columbia imports substantially more high technology goods than it exports and, as a result, the province runs a trade deficit in these commodities. In 2012, this trade gap narrowed slightly as exports grew faster than imports. Nevertheless, the deficit was still $3.9 billion, or nearly four times the total value of B.C.’s high tech exports."
The report describes the province's tech sector as "relatively small".
"British Columbia’s high technology sector ranked fourth among the provinces in employment, international exports, revenue and business counts, but had the third largest employment count and ranked tied for second in average weekly earnings. The province has a much smaller high tech sector than the majority of U.S. states as well, with high technology making up a far smaller share of employment and GDP than the majority of states," the report says.
The tech sector includes manufacturing industries (pharmaceutical and medicine, computer and peripheral, navigational and guidance instruments, and more) and service industries (video game publishers, software publishers, motion picture and video production, geophysical surveying and mapping services, and more).
"The Mainland/Southwest region is home to the head offices of the largest tech companies in the province, including Telus; MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates; and Sierra Wireless just to name a few. There are a number of high tech clusters either already established or beginning to develop in the Greater Vancouver region, including alternative energy companies, digital media and gaming developers, biotechnology firms and a burgeoning wireless sector. The region is home to a number of fast-growing high tech companies that are poised to become global leaders, such as HootSuite, Global Relay and Avigilon," the report states.