(The Province) Andrew Reid: B.C.’s tech industry deserves more attention from politicians

By Andrew Reid
As seen on TheProvince.com

There’s been a lot of talk in this election campaign about the B.C. economy, specifically about certain industries that politicians say drive the economy: oil and gas, mining and forestry. Unfortunately, no one’s been talking about the technology sector to the same extent but we should be.

The tech sector is an unsung hero in the B.C. economy. It doesn’t get the same big headlines as resource-based industries do, maybe because our story is a little harder to tell. We’re not digging coal out of the ground or cutting down trees. We’re developing millions of lines of code that create the software and the solutions businesses need and consumers have come to rely on. And we spend tens of millions of dollars choosing to do it right here in British Columbia.

Did you know that the technology industry is one of the fastest-growing in B.C.? That there are more than 9,000 technology companies in the province, started by more entrepreneurs than anywhere else in Canada? Did you know that we employ more than 84,000 people? That’s more than the oil, gas, mining and forest industries combined. And we’re not just talking about jobs that depend on global commodity prices. We’re talking about well-paying careers.

I’m on the board of the B.C. Technology Industry Association and we’re proud to tell our story.

We’re a young and dynamic industry. According to the most recent statistics available, the B.C. technology sector has outperformed the province’s economy, overall, in terms of growth. We’ve generated billions of dollars in revenue and we’re on the cusp of a recruiting crunch. Unemployment in this business is just 1.9 per cent. That means we’re going to need more talent — and we’re going to need it fast.

So, people like me are watching to see how our provincial politicians plan to support the industry as we continue to do what we do best. Both leading parties in this campaign — the B.C. NDP and the B.C. Liberals — make quick mentions of our sector in their platforms.

Both pledge support for venture-capital programs designed to make it easier for our startups — deemed high-risk by the banks — to incubate and thrive.

The B.C. Liberals talk about working with the federal government to expand the Provincial Nominee Program to recruit talent from outside B.C. when we need it. (Our first priority, though, is making sure we have a homegrown pool of skilled tech workers to draw from.)

The B.C. NDP pledges to update procurement strategies to create more opportunity for us in our own backyard.

These are good starts, but actions speak louder than words. Building a business is hard. I know how hard it is because I started Vision Critical with a handful of people 13 years ago. Today, we employ more than 300 people in B.C. and another 300 at our offices around the world. We have goals to make this a billion-dollar B.C.-based technology company.

Whichever party is elected to govern on May 14, we’ll be watching to ensure the policies and regulations brought into place are ones that support our industry, not stifle it; that they create and maintain the economic conditions we need to thrive.

In the last decade, our sector has lifted more than our economic weight in B.C. Looking ahead, you might say B.C.’s economy depends on safeguarding our ability to keep doing just that in the decades ahead.

Andrew Reid is founder, president and chief product officer of Vision Critical, the world’s leading provider of customer-feedback software.

To read the full story online, click here.