Employment Space Background

Squamish Growth will Require More Local Jobs

Squamish is projected to have nearly 36,000 residents by 2040, averaging a 2.1% net population growth per year. The Squamish workforce is forecasted to almost double as we approach 2040, reaching almost 22,000 workers by 2040. (Source: Statistics Canada population estimates and District of Squamish projections.)

With 10,000 local jobs today, Squamish would need to create 12,000 new jobs to accommodate the growth locally. (Source: District of Squamish Economic Development Community Dashboard: Local Employment to Total Workforce.)

More realistically, if we want to maintain the current share of local workers relative to the total workforce (81%), we would need to create an additional 380 local-based jobs per year, for the next 20 years. (Source: District of Squamish Economic Development Community Dashboard: Local Employment to Total Workforce.)

Re-development and neighbourhood infill can help provide critical infrastructure to support job creation, through the development of more and denser employment space forms that support company creation and growth.

Population growth

In the past 5 years, growth in Squamish has been driven by several factors, including migration from other regions in B.C., migration from other provinces, and international immigration. Migration from other provinces accelerated from 2018-2020, while international migration decelerated in that period. (Source: Statistics Canada.)

Looking forward, growth is almost certain. Federal immigration targets are expected to increase to accommodate Canada’s rapidly-aging population, and Squamish has historically seen significant interest from international immigrants, due to the proximity to Vancouver, and Squamish’s reputation as a top-ranking community for entrepreneurs. (Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business.) Meanwhile, Squamish’s neighbours in Metro Vancouver foresee a significant population increase by the year 2040. The recent Metro Vancouver 2040 Regional Growth Strategy recognizes that the Lower Mainland is forecasted to welcome 1 million new residents to the region in the next 25 years. (Source: Metro 2040.)

Workforce needs

Of the new jobs that will be required to satisfy the growing population, we do anticipate a growing share of home-based and self-employed workers, which could certainly fulfil some of the emerging local job needs. In 2020 there were an estimated 2,656 self-employed individuals working from Squamish, which represents nearly 27% of the local workforce. The proportion of home-based jobs in Squamish is expected to grow following the significant changes to global work behaviors induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed many companies to hire talent regionally, and even internationally. In recent research conducted by the District of Squamish, many local businesses in the office-based category reported that they would be embracing new ways of working after COVID-19, including more flexible work policies and remote work in the long-term. 2020 research by Harvard Business School suggests that 16% of employers, both large and small, will keep their work-at-home policies long after the pandemic. (Source: Harvard Business School Research & Ideas: How Much Will Remote Work Continue After the Pandemic?) While these remote jobs provide an important opportunity for some of Squamish’s job creation needs, there will continue to be a need for in-person jobs, especially given that many sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, tourism, and health care, require activities, equipment, and services that are not necessarily compatible with remote work. Emerging automation technologies are likely to influence labour needs as we approach 2040, however it is anticipated that demand will remain for in-person services and experiences. Most likely, a variety of various employment forms will be required, including both in-person and remote jobs.

Local Businesses Need Employment Space, Affordable Housing, and Workforce Talent to Grow

Employment Space Access

  • With its unique geography nestled among the Coast Mountains and Howe Sound, Squamish has a limited supply of flat land to accommodate its many diverse employment space needs. A 2020-2021 District of Squamish research study identified that businesses are experiencing growth constraints from a lack of inventory across all employment space types. The list of available space quickly dwindles for businesses when they factor in their size and form requirements, budget, required zoning, and preference for lease versus ownership. Neighbourhood infill that includes mixed use buildings can support the easing of business constraints, by providing more employment space opportunities. (Source: Space Needs Insights for Business, April 2021.)
  • The research also identified that affordability is a key challenge, with the increasing cost of land and space. From 2018-2020, commercial lease rates (for office or retail space) in Squamish rose nearly 43%, from an average of $21.70 to $30.93 per square foot. Increasing the supply of employment space through re-development and neighbourhood infill may help to alleviate pricing pressures. (Source: District of Squamish Economic Development Community Dashboard: Lease Rates and Commercial Space.)
  • Economic and employment space modelling produced by the District in 2020 highlighted potential constraints in several employment space categories. In the short term, demand is forecasted to exceed supply in the office category, which may be satisfied in the long term if large development projects proceed as planned. In the long term, the forecast model indicates that new areas will be needed to accommodate retail space through mixed-use re-development. (Source: Squamish Employment Space Demand Model Report to Council, May 2020.)

Employee Attraction and Retention

  • As a rural community without regional transit ties to the Lower Mainland, access to qualified workers has consistently been a challenge for local Squamish businesses. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Squamish Chamber of Commerce reported that nearly half (48%) of Squamish businesses find that recruiting and retaining employees is a major challenge (30%), or even the most difficult challenge (18%) of their business. (Source: 2019/2020 Squamish Collective Perspective report from the Squamish Chamber of Commerce.)
  • In addition, the 2019 study found that 27% of businesses had experienced a decline in the availability of workers since the year before, and 32% experienced a decline in the skills of the available labour pool. As a result of these challenges, 24% had to change their business’s growth plans, 15% had to reduce their output, and 15% had to reduce their hours of operation. (Source: 2019/2020 Squamish Collective Perspective report from the Squamish Chamber of Commerce.)
  • Housing affordability was cited as the top factor affecting the availability of workers, with 67% of businesses reporting that it’s a very big factor. Re-development and neighbourhood infill opportunities that can offer the combination of a local supply of workers and affordable housing would directly enable local businesses’ growth and expansion. (Source: 2019/2020 Squamish Collective Perspective report from the Squamish Chamber of Commerce.)

Generating New Local Jobs Leads to Positive Outcomes

Neighbourhood infill provides an increased inventory of affordable housing and workspaces, while simultaneously supplying Squamish businesses with qualified workers. Outcomes include:

  • Larger and more diversified tax base
  • Added economic resiliency
  • Reduction in commuting workforce and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Increased local transportation access
  • Access to new services and amenities
  • Increased volunteerism
  • Positive health impacts