Why is Vancouver home to so few corporate giants?
On February 9th, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association will be hosting a luncheon at the Pan Pacific Hotel with Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee. Presumably he’ll be in Vancouver to speak with the downtown business crowd about how his Seattle-based coffee company transformed itself into a corporate titan. The whole CityCaucus finance department on the 12th floor is planning to go and we'll be taking copious notes in the hope we can learn a thing or two about turning a profit. Who knows, maybe one day our little blog will have a global presence and become the definitive world-wide source for urban news!
Shultz’s arrival just in advance of the 2010 Olympic Games is good timing. That’s because most of the Mayor’s in the Metro region are setting tax dollars aside to wine and dine the world’s top corporate tycoons in an effort to convince them this region is a great place to invest. Might I humbly suggest these same mayors should also consider buying a ticket and come listen to what Shultz has to say about the type of conditions required to build a successful company.
As we all know, Seattle is only a two hour drive away from Vancouver, however, when it comes to developing and attracting corporate head offices, it may as well be overseas. The Emerald City is home to the corporate headquarters of household names such as Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon.com and Costco. They are also an incubator for hundreds of other mid-sized companies that employ tens of thousands of people in high paying jobs. As a result of this corporate largesse, not only has Seattle’s economy benefited, but so has its cultural community through the generous corporate contributions they receive every year.
By comparison, very few people in Vancouver could name a single corporate giant headquartered in the city. Despite Vancouver’s wonderful location on the pacific rim, diverse cultural communities, favourable immigration status, access to deep sea ports, low provincial taxes, mild climate and talented labour pool, it just can’t seem to grow or attract any corporate giants.
Perhaps we can blame it on that laissez faire West Coast attitude which sometimes exudes a “Vancouver is a place to have fun, not do business” smugness that turns people off from investing here. I certainly hope Shultz talks about the secret of Seattle's success at turning home-grown small companies into successful corporate giants. In other words, you don’t always need to wine and dine foreign investors to get the biggest bang for your investment buck. Sometimes creating the right business climate for small and mid-sized knowledge-based companies already located in your jurisdiction might actually do the trick.
That’s perhaps a good segue to what we’re about to witness in a few weeks then the Olympic Games begin in Vancouver. I suspect our civic politicians will be tripping over each other trying to catch the eye of corporate titans like Howard Shultz. It’s not a completely flawed strategy; however, I hope they're not putting all their eggs into one basket.
If our civic leaders can get their act together soon, who knows, maybe a mid-sized company like Pulse Energy might just grow up to become our very own Starbucks or Boeing one day. We can only hope.
If you’re interested in attending the lunch along with our marketing team, I’m told there still are a few $75 seats available if you contact the BIA directly.
- post by Daniel