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Mapping Metro Vancouver’s Corporate Economy

This is the first blog in a two part series.  Read Part Two here.

By Jock Finlayson and Kristine St-Laurent

Looking at BC-based businesses ranked by annual revenues is one way to develop a better understanding of the nature and make-up of the province’s business community.  In this blog, we probe the “corporate economy” of Metro Vancouver by considering the top 100 public companies in BC,[1] 94 of which happen to be headquartered in Metro Vancouver.  A future blog will do the same for the top 100 private companies in the province – most of which are also based in the Vancouver area.

The breakdown of Metro Vancouver’s biggest public companies[2] highlights the significant place that the mining industry occupies in the region’s corporate sector.  In counting head offices located in Metro Vancouver, mining emerges as nearly double the size of the second largest sector, high technology. 

Also worth noting is that mining and forestry combined make up a big slice of the Metro Vancouver corporate economy.  Indeed, the list of leading public companies underscores the continued importance of natural resources to BC’s economy and to the corporate sector in the Vancouver area.  That said, Metro Vancouver does boast a fairly diverse industrial base, which is reflected in the large firms based in the region.

Mapping the corporate landscape by sector is one way to illuminate the industries that make outsized contributions to Metro Vancouver’s economy by providing employment, occupying space (office, commercial, and industrial), supporting the tax base, and driving exports.

 

Top Five Industries in the Metro Vancouver Corporate Economy[3]

1. Mining

British Columbia has deep ties to natural resource industries.  In 2015, 16 mines [4] were in operation in the province, producing $7.7 billion in gross revenue.  Among the 100 largest BC-based public companies, fully 33 hail from the mining sector.  Leading firms in the industry include Teck Resources, Goldcorp, Silver Wheaton, First Quantum Minerals, Imperial Metals and Taseko Mines.  Many of the mining companies headquartered in the Vancouver area aren’t engaged in mining within BC; rather, they explore for, develop and operate mines in the global market. Most mining-related employment in Metro Vancouver is connected to executive offices and professional/technical support services such as engineering, environmental/technical consulting, geology, and finance.  

2.  High Technology Sector

Metro Vancouver is home to a buzzing technology sector—one that has grown faster than the overall BC economy in the past decade (measured in terms of both aggregate revenues and industry GDP).  Collectively, the high technology industry and its various subsectors are a key engine of growth for the province, generating over $23 billion in revenue in 2015.

Telecommunications is at the forefront of the technology sector, with Telus topping the list of public companies in BC by revenue, followed by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates and Sierra Wireless.   Vancouver also hosts a number of successful software and related companies, such as the security tech firm Avigilon.

Alternative energy/energy technology firms headquartered in Metro Vancouver supply green energy solutions to the global market.  Here, notable firms include Westport Innovations (clean-burning alternative fuels), Alterra Power (hydro facility and wind farm) and Ballard Power Systems (hydrogen fuel cells).

Vancouver’s UBC–Broadway Corridor is quickly becoming known as a world-class health care and life sciences cluster, thanks in part to partnerships between industry and university research facilities as well as the presence of translational research organizations like Genome BC.  Metro Vancouver health care and life sciences firms are leaders in four main areas: oncology research; infectious diseases, including HIV; neuroscience research; and regenerative medicine. The largest companies in this cluster include CRH Medical, followed by Arbutus Biopharma, Cardiome Pharma, and Xenon Pharmaceuticals.

3. Forestry

Forestry and related wood products firms make up the third largest group of significant-sized BC-based public companies, accounting for almost one-tenth of the top 100 public companies in the province. British Columbia is a leading global exporter of wood products, notably pulp and paper, timber and lumber, and also produces value-added wood products and biofuels.  The forest industry contributes nearly $12 billion to provincial GDP and sustains 145,000 jobs in direct and indirect employment. Forestry is also, by a wide margin, BC’s biggest export industry.  The leading forestry firms based in Metro Vancouver are West Fraser, Canfor, Interfor, and Catalyst Paper.

4. Diversified Manufacturing

There are seven diversified manufacturing firms[5] in the top 100 public companies, drawn from a number of manufacturing sub-sectors, including steel products (Tree Island), printing/publishing (Glacier Media), and aerospace (Avcorp).  Manufacturing in the Vancouver area includes several fast growing firms; looking ahead, the sector should continue to gain from rising exports supported by a competitive exchange rate and an expanding American economy. 

5. Wholesale/Distribution

Wholesale trade and distribution has consistently ranked among the most important sectors in the Metro Vancouver economy. Finning International leads the pack here, followed by Taiga Building Products and Canwel Building Materials Group.  Similar to manufacturing, most wholesale trade and distribution firms in the region are focused on exporting and currently benefit from the comparatively low Canadian dollar.

Metro’s Corporate Landscape

Political and business leaders should not overlook the vital role of the goods producing sector in driving economic activity and business growth in Metro Vancouver. Mining and forestry together make up 42% of the biggest publicly-traded companies in the region.  Technology, manufacturing and wholesale trade and distribution also have a substantial presence in the local business scene.  Smart, forward-looking public policy needs to focus on protecting the supply of industrial lands for the port, manufacturing, distribution, and other goods-producing enterprises to support Metro Vancouver’s diverse and increasingly global-facing economy.  Finally, Metro Vancouver has emerged as an attractive environment for high technology firms, as is evident in the rapid growth of this sector.  Enabling more BC-based technology companies to grow into larger-scale businesses, such as those listed below, should be a priority for policy-makers looking to build a more productive economy.  

This blog has looked at just one portion of the Metro Vancouver business community:  the largest publicly-trade firms based in the region.  Other important segments of business are not considered here -- private companies, and large firms with a significant local presence but whose head offices are located elsewhere.  Future BCBC blogs will fill some of the gaps by examining other parts of the broad Metro Vancouver business sector. 

Top Public Companies Based in Metro Vancouver
BUSINESS SECTOR
1, TELUS CORP High Technology - Telecommunications
2. TECK RESOURCES LTD Mining
3. FINNING INTERNATIONAL INC Wholesale/Distribution
4. GOLDCORP INC Mining
5. WEST FRASER TIMBER CO LTD Forest and Related Products
6. CANFOR CORP Forest and Related Products
7. WESTCOAST ENERGY INC* Oil & Gas
8. FIRST QUANTUM MINERALS LTD Mining
 9. METHANEX CORP Oil & Gas
 10. LIONS GATE ENTERTAINMENT CORP  Entertainment
 11. LULULEMON ATHLETICA INC  Retail
 12. MACDONALD, DETTWILER AND ASSOCIATES LTD  High Technology - Telecommunications
 13. TURQUOISE HILL RESOURCES LTD  Mining
 14. HSBC BANK CANADA  Finance
 15. CATALYST PAPER CORP  Forest and Related Products
 16. INTERFOR CORP  Forest and Related Products
 17. PREMIUM BRANDS HOLDINGS CORP  Manufacturing
 18. TAIGA BUILDING PRODUCTS LTD  Wholesale/Distribution
 19. CANFOR PULP PRODUCTS INC  Forest Products
 20. ELDORADO GOLD CORP  Mining
 21. WESTERN FOREST PRODUCTS INC  Forest and Related Products
 22. NEW GOLD INC  Mining
 23. CANACCORD GENUITY GROUP INC  Finance
 24. PAN AMERICAN SILVER CORP  Mining
 25. SILVER WHEATON CORP  Mining
 26. CANWEL BUILDING MATERIALS GROUP LTD  Wholesale/Distribution
 27. SIERRA WIRELESS INC  High Technology - Telecommunications
 28. B2GOLD CORP  Mining
 29. RICHIE BROS AUCTIONEERS INC  Wholesale/Distribution
 30. HARDWOODS DISTRIBUTION INC  Wholesale/Distribution
 31. ROGERS SUGAR  Agriculture/Food Processing
 32. CAPSTONE MINING CORP  Mining
 33. SILVER STANDARD RESOURCES INC  Mining
 34. NEVSUN RESOURCES LTD  Mining
 35. GREAT CANADIAN GAMING CORP  Entertainment
 36. CHINA GOLD INTERNATIONAL RESOURCES CORP LTD  Mining
 37. AVIGILON CORP  High Technology - Software and Related
 38. WESTSHORE TERMINALS INVESTMENT CORP  Wholesale/Distribution
 39. CONIFEX TIMBER INC  Forest and Related Products
 40. FORTRESS PAPER LTD  Forest and Related Products
 41. TASEKO MINES LTD  Mining
 42. LUCARA DIAMOND CORP  Mining
 43. FIRST MAJESTIC SILVER CORP  Mining
 44. COPPER MOUNTAIN MINING CORP  Mining
 45. ENDEAVOUR SILVER CORP  Mining
 46. WESTERNONE INC  Finance
 47. TREE ISLAND STEEL LTD  Manufacturing
 48. GLACIER MEDIA INC  Manufacturing
 49. AMERICAN HOTEL INCOME PROPERTIES REIT LP  Real Estate
 50. VILLAGE FARMS INTERNATIONAL INC  Agriculture/Food Processing
 51. PURE INDUSTRIAL REAL ESTATE TRUST (PIRET)  Real Estate
 52. SILVERCORP METALS INC  Mining
 53. TIMMINS GOLD CORP  Mining
 54. WALL FINANCIAL CORP  Real Estate
 55. WESTPORT INNOVATIONS INC  High Technology - Alternative Energy
 56. IMPERIAL METALS CORP  Mining
 57. ABSOLUTE  High Technology - Software and Related
 58. TREVALI MINING CORP  Mining
 59. ACADIAN TIMBER CORP  Forestry
 60. TEN PEAKS COFFEE CO INC  Agriculture/Food Products
 61. ENERGOLD DRILLING CORP  Mining
 62. AVCORP INDUSTRIES INC  Manufacturing
 63. CANLAN ICE SPORTS CORP  Recreation
 64. PURE MULTI-FAMILY REIT LP  Real Estate
 65. ALTERRA POWER CORP  High Technology - Alternative Energy
 66. GREAT PANTHER SILVER LTD  Mining
 67. LUNA GOLD CORP  Mining
 68. BALLARD POWER SYSTEMS INC  High Technology - Alternative Energy
 69. SANDSTORM GOLD LTD  Mining
 70. AMERIGO RESOURCES LTD  Mining
 71. TIO NETWORKS CORP  High Technology - Software and Related
 72. CRH MEDICAL CORP  High Technology - Health Care
 and Life Sciences
 73. POLARIS MATERIALS CORP  Mining
 74. TAG OIL LTD  Oil & Gas/Energy
 75. MONUMENT MINING LTD  Mining
 76. NORSAT INTERNATIONAL INC  Manufacturing
 77. MOGO FINANCE TECHNOLOGY  High Technology - Software and Related
 78. BOSTON PIZZA ROYALTIES INCOME FUND  Restaurants
 79. URTHECAST  High Technology - Software and Related
 80. AURCANA CORP  Mining
 81. CIBT EDUCATION GROUP INC  Education Services
 82. A&W REVENUE ROYALTIES INCOME FUND  Restaurants
 83. ARBUTUS BIOPHARMA CORP  High Technology - Health Care
 and Life Sciences
 84. HELIJET INTERNATIONAL INC  Transportation
 85. MADISON PACIFIC PROPERTIES INC  Real Estate
 86. STARCORE INTERNATIONAL MINES LTD  Mining
 87. PHOTON CONTROL INC  Manufacturing
 88. THE KEG ROYALTIES INCOME FUND  Restaurants
 89. DYNASTY METALS & MINING INC  Mining
 90. CARDIOME PHARMA CORP  High Technology - Health Care
 and Life Sciences
 91. KELSO TECHNOLOGIES INC  Manufacturing
 92. SOUTHGOBI RESOURCES LTD  Mining
 93. XENON PHARMACEUTICALS INC  High Technology - Health Care
 and Life Sciences
 94. DIVERSIFIED ROYALTY CORP  Finance
* Westcoast Energy is owned by Spectra Energy.

 



[1] Ranked by 2015 revenue, Business in Vancouver’s Top 100 Public Companies in B.C., https://www.biv.com/datatables/top-100-public-companies-in-bc-in-2016/.

[2] By gross revenue.

[3] Ranked by number of firms from each industry in Business in Vancouver’s Top 100 Public Companies in B.C., Ibid.  

[4] Metal and coal mines only.

[5] Excluding lumber and pulp and paper companies.