Count the laptops in coffee shops or the bikes on trails in the middle of the day, any day of the week, and it becomes obvious that the Squamish community isn’t your typical workforce. The work to live mantra rings especially true here in town, with lifestyle the main reason people make the move to Squamish. From logging town, to bedroom community to thriving start-up hub, the Squamish employment scene has undergone rapid transformation in the last couple of decades as a culture of entrepreneurs, remote workers and conscious and sustainable businesses now dominate the new Squamish workforce.
As technology and a generation of millennials move into the workforce, workplaces around North America are shifting to a model that’s more flexible. No longer are most people happy with the 9-5 grind; instead, top priority is a job that is meaningful and which supports overall personal pursuits. We are seeing this trend strongly here in Squamish, as people turn their backs on climbing the corporate ladder, opting for a lifestyle by design, close to nature and prioritizing family instead of long days at the office.
With an increase of remote workers, tele-commuters, freelancers and entrepreneurs, there’s an overflow of nomadic workers looking for alternatives to coffee shops and working in isolation at home. To meet this growing trend Peter Buchholz is launching The Common (www.thecommon.io) this August in downtown Squamish.
“It’s amazing how many innovative and talented people there are in the Squamish business community,” says Peter “I wanted to provide a physical space where they can, not only get their work done in an inspiring office environment, but also connect, share ideas and build a support system with their peers.”
The Common will be offering shared desk space, private desks and meeting rooms for those looking to get out of the house, find focus, and connect with other remote workers in a collaborative environment.
Not long ago, the scenario for many Squamish locals was a five-day commute to Vancouver. Now commuters are finding city employers offering flexible arrangements to reduce driving, and allowing their staff the flexibility to work from home for part of the work week. Michelle Nerima, who moved to Squamish two years ago and works as a Marketing Strategist for Post Media in Vancouver, enjoys 1-2 work-from-home days a week. When commuting she opts for a ride share system, which drops her off and picks her up at the same time and place each day.
Michelle notes, “commuting is a great way to meet new people and enjoy the spectacular views of the Howe Sound every day.” When compared to commutes into Vancouver from the Fraser Valley, a scenic 45-minute traffic-free drive is a no brainer for many.
Squamish also has a commuter bus, which leaves daily from the Adventure Centre at 7:00am stopping at Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver, then departs the city at 5:30pm getting into Squamish just after 6:00pm. There are whispers of a light rail system connecting Squamish to Vancouver, though this is likely years away.
For many years Squamish offered little more than low paying service and construction jobs but now the start-up culture in Squamish is really ramping up. In 2016 the District of Squamish received a record number of business license applications. Some new business additions in town include a green carbon capture facility, an apparel line 7mesh which recently partnered with Lululemon, and a wave of new micro breweries which have attracted overnight success.
The business climate in Squamish is optimistic with plenty of opportunity for those launching a quality service or product. Businesses tend to have a social or sustainable flavour which is very representative of the values of people living in town.
Dalia and Marcus Monopoli moved to Squamish last year and launched their sensory play centre, Happimess which won the Innovation Award at this year’s Business Excellence Awards. When asked about starting a business in Squamish Dalia explains, “our family lives in Squamish so the choice to start our business here was based on a value we believe in and that’s, ‘family-first’. It was also based on how Squamish is the perfect family town.”
While the start-up and remote working scenarios are gaining momentum, the construction industry is also booming. With several large-scale developments on the go, lead by a red hot real estate market, skilled tradespeople are a hot commodity in Squamish right now. Another future source of employment will be the Woodfiber LNG facility which is expected to bring 650 construction jobs to town during the building phase, and 100 permanent jobs once in operation.
The caliber of businesses and innovation happening in Squamish right now is extraordinary. With a dynamic, young and lifestyle-driven population, the small town of around 20,000 is on the forefront of an evolving workforce landscape and is raising the bar on what it truly means to work to live.