The Silicon Valley 

Why high-tech wants Whistler… and Whistler wants high-tech

High-technology is one of B.C.’s fastest growing industries, with literally thousands of new ventures and franchises popping up all over the map. Although most of the high-tech sector is centred around the greater Vancouver area, a few visionaries are taking advantage of the new technology to prove you can run a global high-tech business from anywhere – even Whistler.

It’s a lifestyle thing.

"Tall fir trees, forested trails, snow-capped mountain vistas, basketball courts, soccer fields, a museum, a store, numerous food pavilions, and shuttle buses."

It sounds a little like Whistler, but it could apply to almost any West Coast community that wants to promote itself as a great place to live and work.

This passage was actually taken from Microsoft’s online job centre, and describes Microsoft’s sprawling high-tech "Campus" in Redmond, Washington – a Seattle satellite that is proud to be the home of the most important software company in the world.

Because of Microsoft and the spending power of Microsoft employees, Redmond has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. at just 2.4 per cent. In 1998, the average household income in Redmond was $59,000 (nearly $85,000 CDN), second only in Washington to a small Seattle suburb where the city’s millionaires have estates.

The City of Redmond is also doing well. City council is actively creating new parks, building infrastructure, and supporting the thriving local arts scene – it’s easy to spread the wealth when you have a $250 million annual operating budget to serve the needs of just 44,000 residents.

Any city or town in the U.S. or Canada would kill to be the next Redmond, and many have committed resources to building specialized infrastructures that attract high-tech businesses, including high-speed Internet connectivity, digital cellular services, and reliable power supplies.

These communities actively compete with one another for high-tech businesses, offering lower lease rates, tax breaks (wherever possible), public parks, ample parking, exercise facilities, conference facilities, airport shuttles – even lower power rates. Why?

Because high-tech companies are generally profitable, prone to growth, and pay their taxes on time. For the most part they are environmentally friendly and attract the kind of well-heeled, well-educated and well-paid people that can’t help but have a positive influence on a community. Furthermore, they tend to multiply: successful high-tech companies tend to attract other complementary and supporting high-tech companies, and so on, and so on. Within a short time of relocating to Redmond, once a logging and farming town, Microsoft was joined by AT&T Wireless, Space Labs and Genetic Systems, to name just a few.

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