OPINION: We are poised to invent tomorrow together (Vancouver Sun)

September 27, 2019
Greg D'Avignon

For nearly a century, the Peace Arch has proudly straddled the Washington state-B.C. border, symbolizing what the peoples of the Pacific Northwest have always known: We are better together.

We take pride in the strengths of our corner of the world — unsurpassed natural beauty, a high quality of life and innovative spirit, diverse communities, a skilled workforce and strong global ties.

Yet, when we look to the future, we see daunting challenges on the horizon. How do we accommodate our growing population? How do we confront the impact of a changing climate? How do we ensure a strong economic future and provide opportunity for everyone?

Over the last decade we have experienced unrivalled economic growth, in part because we are a leader in technology, academic research, life sciences and more. However, with this success have come real challenges like homelessness, transportation congestion and a shrinking supply of affordable housing.

Four years ago a set of forward-thinking leaders recognized that these challenges aren’t just Washington state’s or Oregon’s or B.C.’s Rather, they belong to all of us.

Their conclusion?

Why work alone, when we can do better together?

In 2016, this coalition of leaders from the business, government, non-profit and academic sectors came together to launch the Cascadia Innovation Corridor (CIC) Initiative. This groundbreaking initiative brings together leaders from across the Cascadia mega-region from Vancouver to Portland, Ore., to work on the issues that will define our shared future. Mega-regions, as they’re known, are at the forefront of economic competition and civic problem solving, and can be seen at work from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, to the Texas Triangle. But few mega-region efforts have reached across international borders to embrace a truly global future.

To facilitate this unique cross-border collaboration, the Business Council of B.C. and Challenge Seattle are proud to lead the CIC Initiative. We have brought together a steering committee of U.S. and Canadian experts who are hard at work advancing initiatives in key industries — life sciences, technology and sustainable agriculture — while addressing critical issues from transportation to workforce development.

They’re creating new partnerships in education, transportation, business and more to achieve results that none of us could accomplish alone. Our three renowned cancer centres are now collaborating to prevent, treat and find cures to cancer. Our preeminent schools of forestry are researching new approaches to prevent and respond to forest fires. Our governments are jointly studying ultra-high-speed transportation, housing affordability and broadband. Our tech sector is incubating breakthroughs in quantum computing that will change the world while providing good jobs.

In early October we will hold our fourth annual Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference in Seattle. It will be a chance to bring leaders together in one place to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for our mega-region. CEOs from Alaska Airlines, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Zymeworks and Canada’s Digital Supercluster will share their perspectives on the economic, political and social landscape in which Cascadia competes. Our regions’ elected leaders will share their perspectives of the Cascadia corridor and its promise for the future.

Most importantly, we are engaging in a broader conversation with the public about the future of the Cascadia region. It’s time for us to seize our opportunities and confront the challenges before us.

We are poised to invent tomorrow together. We invite you to join us at the conference and online to help create a roadmap to a future we all want. Visit connectcascadia.com to learn more.

Greg D’Avignon and Christine Gregoire are co-chairs of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, an organization promoting the Vancouver-Seattle-Portland corridor as a single innovative economic zone with a focus on research, economic development and transportation.

As published in the Vancouver Sun.

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