Tech thriving in downtown Vancouver

Innovation Partnership Zone creates a collaborative environment that brings young creatives to region

Teresa Brum and Sandra Towne

Want to see the newest place where the region’s young creatives are choosing to work? Then look no further than downtown Vancouver’s own Main Street.

“There’s no question that Vancouver is the one to watch right now. Businesses are connecting. Alliances are being struck. Art and culture are at the forefront of the kind of change that will drive Southwest Washington ahead,” said Marc Neidlinger, CEO of Blue Blazes, just one of the nearly 40 tech companies bringing new life to the downtown core.

Two years ago, the tech industry was still a fast-growing concept in Vancouver, with a dozen tech businesses downtown. That was enough to qualify as an Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ): a designation based on creating a collaborative environment with a mission to drive more emerging digital technology businesses to the Vancouver area.

Today, much of the vibe being created downtown is being shaped by the millennial workforce, many working at tech companies in the IPZ. These workers are influencing not only the design of their work spaces, but the types of amenities and activities offered outside of their offices – creating the urban feel popular with this generation of workers.

Tech companies do business in non-traditional ways and therefore look for non-traditional space to set up shop, breathing new life into old buildings by using innovative interior designs to create cutting-edge, collaborative offices.

In the highly competitive environment for talent, many companies are starting to choose their locale based on what is attractive to the millennial genre of workers, and downtown Vancouver’s affordable, charming and urban character is becoming a competitive advantage for these tech businesses.

A recent IPZ survey confirmed that Vancouver’s tech businesses intentionally chose urban amenities and are passionate about wanting more options: more food trucks, more breweries, more restaurants and more social and after-hour networking events.

Since 2013, the IPZ has helped accelerate the formation of an applied digital technology zone by partnering industry with the city of Vancouver, the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, Washington State University Vancouver, Clark College and other agencies to support a sector that creates commercially-viable products and jobs.

The city of Vancouver has worked to streamline permitting processes and remove regulatory barriers in order to encourage business growth, and we have seen some great results. Nearly 40 tech firms now call downtown Vancouver their home, which has helped spur the opening of 25 new brewpubs, wine bars, restaurants and coffee shops in the last two years.

In an industry that knows no geographic boundaries, these tech firms are successfully doing business around the world, and doing it right here in Vancouver.

If you want to find out more about the burgeoning tech scene in Vancouver, attend one of the many upcoming events, including:

“The Internet of Things” hosted by Perfect Company. September 22, 5 to 7 p.m., 123 Main St.

Industries Quarterly: Digital Technology. October 13, 4 to 6 p.m., 222 Broadway Street.

Vancouver Tech Project (#vantechy) bi-weekly Thursday’s meet-up. September 3, 8 p.m., 333 Washington St. For more information, visit www.ipzgetin.com.

Teresa Brum is the economic development manager for the city of Vancouver. Sandra Towne is the planning manager for the city of Vancouver.

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