Revelstoke’s traditional resource-based economic sectors are very visible. Forestry, the railway, hydro and transportation all involve big, very noticeable infrastructure like dams, mills, logging trucks, trains hauling exports, and big machinery to keep it all humming.
What does a growing new economy sector in Revelstoke look like? It’s here, it’s around us, and it may have a bigger impact on the local economy than we realize. Its workers pull down higher than average salaries, but since they’re often working remotely and individually, it’s harder to perceive the cumulative impact of their contribution. We know traditional resource jobs pay well and are the cornerstone of our economy; can we build another tech-focused economic cornerstone?
We focused on three general questions to create short bio snapshots: Why have they chosen Revelstoke? What enables them to work here? And what can Revelstoke do to help attract more well-paying new economy jobs?
Here are three profiles:
Tina Hoffart is a geophysicist from Calgary who has been planning the move to Revelstoke since 2010. She finally took the full-time plunge a month ago.
She works for a Calgary-based oil and gas company where she does tracking, quality control, mapping and other complex analysis of field testing and exploration for oil and gas. Her interpretations guide those working on the ground in oil and gas exploration. Her work is computer based, and she needs high speed internet to make it work. Nowadays, she’s able to work at home just like at her office.
Like all three new economy workers we spoke with, it was the lifestyle that brought Tina to Revelstoke.
“You can’t beat this lifestyle, basically anywhere,” she said.
If it’s outdoors on the snow, two wheels, in the mountains or on a river, she’s into it. Of course, the community is key to the lifestyle. Tina and her partner have a 13-month-old they want to raise here.
What can Revelstoke do to help attract more new economy workers like her?
She established her reputation and career in Alberta enough to be able to make the move here, but it’s not something everyone can do.
Calgary has a go-go corporate culture, and employers there can have difficulty with the concept of employee wanting to move away to the B.C. mountains.
“Are you really going to be working, or are you just skiing?” Hoffart joked about the reaction to her plans. In her case, her track record earned trust.
She feels that vanguards like herself will help change that perception, and begin to normalize the idea that you can work hard and play hard, but you don’t need to be near an office tower to do both.
Using Calgary as an example, she suggested focusing on the people who already come here to play, and making a marketing pitch to them to attract more remote workers.
Paul Gaudet is a transplant from the heart of Toronto, right at Spadina Avenue and Front Street, just next to Rogers Centre.
A lifestyle migrant, he traded it in for a home in the Big Eddy and all the powder time he wants on his snowboard.
“The only thing I knew about Revelstoke was it’s a place you come and drown yourself in powder,” he joked.
He owns Revelstoke-based RelativePerspectiv Marketing & Design, where he does web, graphics, social media marketing and administrative consulting, including work on local websites, for example.
But it’s his business contacts and established client base that enables him to make it work. Gaudet works remotely, specializing in several niche markets, including junior mining companies, marine services, construction, and has clients “from Port Alberni to Cape Breton.”
Without the ability to work remotely, Gaudet says it would be hard to make a financial case for living here, due to a limited market. (And he also encouraged local businesses to invest in web development and social media marketing, saying it does cost, but it’s best to think of it as an investment with a return. “This cost you are facing is how you get to the next step,” he said.)
As an independent business owner, he relies on a diverse skill set to succeed. He can do sales, coding, develop software and manage clients — whereas someone working in his field in the city might specialize and rely on a larger team.
“In an environment like this you can’t just have one tool in your belt,” he said.
To attract more new economy migrants like himself, Gaudet has three main recommendations.
The first is the need for diverse support structure for businesses, and Gaudet feels that needs further development, such as improved interconnectedness to drive the new economy sector.
The second is improved infrastructure. He felt Revelstoke is pitching to high-end, international clients in our winter recreation offerings, and we need to make sure we’re meeting clients’ and newcomers’ expectations when they come. That includes everything from water to internet to roads to business infrastructure.
We need to “make sure that’s not just a facade.”
The third is increased marketing outreach to sell the year-round offering Revelstoke has to offer. He felt diverse marketing efforts to date have done a good job establishing ourselves as a winter resort/powder destination, but we need to make a year-round lifestyle pitch for people to actually move here.
“From the top down, let the people who don’t live here — your target market — know it’s not just about skiing,” he said.
Tim Auger is a mechanical engineer originally from Calgary. There has been no shortage of work in Alberta oil and gas for someone with those credentials, but even while living in Alberta, Auger gravitated towards lifestyle pursuits.
He’s an avid cyclist who relocated here for the ski and cycling lifestyle, and brought years of experience working in the bicycle industry with him.
Currently, he works remotely as a purchaser for The Bike Shop in Calgary, and has worked his way up through all aspects of the cycling retail industry.
“I just took in on because in that industry there is no shortage of work to be done and there is often a shortage of people to do it,” he said.
His work is web focused. To give an example, he helps his company manage a real-time inventory system that makes their products available online and in store simultaneously, so that they can make the best of both worlds.
His infrastructure needs are simple: “I need a place to put my computer, a little spot to put my coffee and good internet.”
What can Revelstoke do to attract more workers? I interviewed Auger at Revelstoke Mountain CoLab, a coworking space located on Mackenzie Avenue across the street from Revelstoke City Hall. “Where we are right now is a huge step forward … having faster internet and community co-op workspace,” he said.
He also feels that if we want to attract remote workers, we need to market the concept.
“If the [community] wants more people to engage in this type of lifestyle it just needs to be promoted.”
Auger is a very active cyclist who volunteers with the Revelstoke Cycling Association. Through his recreation and industry contacts, he meets remote workers who spend weeks or months here at a time. They’ll come for summer riding, and because their work is also remote, they can stay here to work.
“They will stop here and call it base,” he said. “That is what’s being enabled by having this remote infrastructure.”
This is the second part of a technology education series hosted in the Revelstoke Mountaineer in conjunction with YourLink Revelstoke, and our new Mountain CoLab (formerly Revelstoke Coworking) to discuss the wide swath of opportunities for our community to capitalize.
Oh, and please complete this survey to show support for locally run communications and IT support. Will give you $40 credit to YourLink Revelstoke’s new upgraded system. They employ a 12-person team and have proudly served Revelstoke since 1958.