Outlook 2020: Positioning for Prosperity – a new BC Economy

Chapter 3 of the BC Business Council’s Outlook 2020 series happened last week in the midst of all the other numerous events scheduled.  As a result, I only caught one of the sessions, missing the panel discussion on Resourcing the Future:  BC’s Natural Advantage with Peter Woodbridge (who I am very impressed with – he authored the paper on the forest industry);  Randy Jespersen, President and CEO of Tersen; and Pierre Gratton, President and CEO of the Mining Association of BC.

The panel session that I did attend was called:  Servicing the Future:  Creativity’s Competitive Advantage in Changing Times. Moderated by Ida Goodreau, CEO of Lifelabs Medical Laboratory Services the session provided lots of good information about the potential of BC’s service sector.

In summary…

Michael Goldberg – Dean Emeritus, Sauder School of Business, UBC

  • There has been a dramatic growth in world exports of commercial services in the last couple of years;  US and EU are the dominant players – Canada is behind.  Trading in services grew 36.3% while trading in goods grew 26.8%.  And employment projections are for growth in the service sector.
  • Highlighted 10 exportable services – but health and education are key where we have large public expenditures and huge financial stress.
  • Keys to exporting tradeable services:  connectivity, high quality of life, education, health, public services and labour supply.
  • Challenges:  other regions are doing it too, can be slow to develop, goods matter and services don’t, trade barriers
  • Need to fund BC Stats to provide us with good information
  • See Mike’s paper at www.bcbc.comBuilding the Economic Base:  Tradeable Services.

Pascal Spothelfer – President and CEO of the BC Technology Industry Association

  • In 1984 the tech sector in BC was 1.8% of GDP and in 2007 it was 5.9% — employs 81,000 people.
  • Strengths:  entrepreneurial foundation, breadth (life sciences, IT, new media, clean tech)
  • Weaknesses:  small companies, poor export performance
  • The tech industry needs more medium size/large companies to train and feed the management pool;  exports are essential – we need to find ways to enable smaller companies to become exporters;  we need to understand the sector and develop growth strategies.
  • The keys are supporting education and building HR capacity.
  • S & T is important to dealing with climate change, energy supply and human health.
  • See Pascal’s paper at www.bcbc.comBC’s Advanced Technology Sector:  Reaching for the Next Level.

Chris Thomas, QC – Consultant to Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

  • Themes:  the Internet and Information Technology – the decoupling of services vis-à-vis geographic location; and, Infrastructure.
  • Singapore is “best in class” when it comes to tradeable services – they now operate over 28 ports around the world (YVR active in this area too).  The Singapore story is that they are short of water – so they have applied S & T to (1) improve catchment technology; (2) developed techniques for treating sewage; and (3) developing low energy desalination processes.  Singapore is now the world authority on “water” and provides consulting services globally.
  • We need to study our strengths and determine what we do well – and then unlock the economic opportunities – needs imagination and careful thought.
  • We can leverage our strong education and hard work.

Ron Burnett, President of Vice-Chancellor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design

  • It’s about creativity in the digital age – the creative economy and the cultural industries provide new opportunities.
  • The business value-add of design  — anecdotal examples – and we do use designed items and a designed world everyday.  MQ note:  where are the metrics on the value-add of design?  Research needed.
  • Opportunities in Health Design Engineering
  • Creative Sector – in 2007  $84.6B, 7.4% of GDP and 1.1 million jobs.
  • Opportunities in the new green economy.
  • See Ed Mansfield’s paper on:  the Creative Sector at http://www.bcbc.com.

MQ Reflections:

  • Am appreciative of the BCBC series – especially the papers that provide us with the key background information and context to understand where we are now and where we are headed from a future economic point of view.  Thank you BC Business Council.
  • Because I was going back and forth between the Outlook Series and the Resilient Cities conference, it was hard to miss the disconnect.   I was surprised at how the BCBC panels didn’t discuss the zero carbon or carbon-constrained economy and its opportunities.  Pascal mentioned some of the opportunities.   But there was no real discussion on how we are going to take advantage, in a creative and innovative way, of the change that is upon us .  Whereas at the Resilient Cities conference there were some really hard-nosed sessions on the economy, where it is going, what we could be and should be doing with some specific actions (next blog).
  • Need to get these two groups together – will be interesting to see the City of Vancouver’s Economic Development Plan which is coming soon.  Might be a good topic for a BCBC session.
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