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Victoria's high-tech sector valued at $3 billion

The economic impact of Greater Victoria’s high-tech industry has hit the $3-billion mark, according to information released this week by the Victoria Advanced Technology Council.
Project engineer Shannon Poste displays an event recorder, or crash-protected memory box, used in railway systems around the world at Quester TangentÍs facility in North Saanich. The company is marking 30 years in business.

The economic impact of Greater Victoria’s high-tech industry has hit the $3-billion mark, according to information released this week by the Victoria Advanced Technology Council.

On the eve of its annual awards show at the Victoria Conference Centre, the high-tech advocate released its VIATeC 25 — an annual listing of the top 25 revenue generators in the industry that shows the top generators have combined for nearly $1 billion in revenue.

“We always expect the tech sector to continue to show growth, but we did not expect to see 18 per cent growth over last year,” said VIATeC executive director Dan Gunn.

This year’s top-25 represent $964 million in revenue, up from $819 million last year.

Gunn said the $3-billion figure is conservative given the VIATeC 25 combined revenue has grown significantly.

The region now hasnearly 900 high-tech companies, and the sector has an even greater economic impact than it did in a 2009 study valuing it at $2.65-billion industry.

“The top 25 companies alone are a billion-dollar industry. Since 2009 the VIATeC 25 combined revenue has grown by more than $200 million since then and we think the other 850 companies will match that overall growth,” he said. “I think the VIATeC 25 shows the industry continues to grow. It’s resilient and that it has nowhere near reached its full potential.”

The annual list includes only high-tech firms who are either founded or headquartered in Victoria, so it does not include firms such as IBM that have a large presence here.

“We focus on those whose fate is more controlled from Victoria, so seeing them grow is a great bellwether for what is happening in the rest of the tech sector,” said Gunn.

Quester Tangent, which made the Top 25 list this year, is considered symptomatic of what’s happening in the region. The 30-year-old company, which started life as a developer of ocean mapping equipment and has evolved to create monitoring units to provide detailed diagnostic information for rail systems, has doubled its revenues over the last five years.

“We have grown rapidly,” said Quester COO Bill Collins, noting their business plan calls for revenue to double again over the next five years.

“It’s a testament to putting in place the right business systems and to the people we’ve been able to attract to work for us, we have the best damn engineering team on the Island, this group of young professionals is just amazing,” said Collins.

The company now boasts 85 employees.

Collins said from his perspective the local tech industry hasn’t exploded, but rather is enjoying another cycle of growth.

“It has grown significantly, but the dynamics are  very cyclical,” he said.

“There was a time when JDS Uniphase was here and Carmanah was huge ... those were great days.”

He added Victoria is “loaded with entrepreneurs” who are growing their own companies in a new cycle.

VIATeC said the nearly 900 high-tech firms in Greater Victoria directly employ 13,000 people.

Many of those firms are new startups, and Gunn said the VIATeC 25 gives them something to shoot for.

“I think it shows them what’s possible, what can be done from Victoria. It shows you can be a globally dominant player from the Island in that you don’t have to move or chase money in other cites — it increases the ambition for people,” he said.

The VIATeC awards are tonight at the Victoria Conference Centre.

VIATeC 25 in alphabetical order
Access Point Information Ltd.
Archipelago Marine Research
Boardwalk Communications
Camacc Systems Inc.
Carmanah Technologies
Codan Radio Communications
Contech Enterprises
FTS Forest Technology Systems
HP Advanced Solutions Inc.
JEA Pension System Solutions
Quester Tangent
Reliable Controls
Schneider Electric
Scott Plastics Ltd.
Seastar Chemicals Inc.
ShipConstructor Software Inc.
UNIT4 Business Software
Vecima Networks
Viking Air Ltd.

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