COMOX VALLEY – For those wanting to know what land opportunities are available in the Comox Valley, that information is already waiting.

The Comox Valley Economic Development Society, commonly known as Invest Comox Valley, has produced an Employment and Industrial Lands-Based FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) Strategy, a ready-made document that identifies which lands are available, and where. Compiled in 2016 by MDB Insight, Van Struth Consulting, it projects forward to 2045.

The Strategy developed a comprehensive inventory of current employment and industrial lands, analyzed, the present employment and industrial land inventory relative to market choice and desirability, and assessed the market position and potential for the Comox Valley to guide longer-term development needs for light and medium industrial and employment land development.

It also recommends specific land use, servicing, or development standards and policies to improve the region’s long-term competitiveness and distribute investment across the area, which helps forecast employment growth over the long term.

Based on the Survey’s findings, five priority sectors have been identified that offer high growth and investment potential in the Comox Valley: Aquaculture/Fishing, Agriculture, Tourism, Professional Services/Technology, and primary and secondary Manufacturing

By 2045, the Comox Valley is expected to accommodate employment growth of 8,000 to 11,000 jobs. This would translate to an overall demand of 300-430 net acres of employment lands, not including growth in the institutional and resort/recreational sectors.

The largest available land is zoned Industrial Marine, with 122.2 of 190 acres available. By city, for example, the Town of Comox has 67 acres of net industrial land available zoned Aeronautical Industrial, and 3.7 acres in commercial.

Cumberland has 956.2 acres of net vacant industrial land available. Courtenay has 13.3 acres of Industrial Zone Two available, and altogether, Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland have 1,135.4 acres available.

“Local governments in the Comox Valley are well aware of the importance of long-term financial sustainability,” says John Watson, Executive Director of Invest Comox Valley.

“Maintaining and expanding a strong non-residential tax base is an essential component of this financial sustainability, due to the higher tax rates paid on industrial and business properties. These higher taxes not only provide additional revenue to local governments to provide services but also help to moderate the tax burden on local residents.

“This Strategy provides the necessary background information to support longer term economic development and land use policy development in the Comox Valley.”

Based on the findings of the Strategy, the recommended guiding vision and direction for employment and industrial lands in the Comox Valley is:

“Through collaboration and coordination of planning, servicing, and development strategies among the Regional District, local governments, the K’ómoks First Nation, public agencies, businesses and non-governmental organizations, the Comox Valley will provide a continued supply of lands and spaces in urban and rural areas with the broad range omarket choice characteristics that appeal to industrial and knowledge-based businesses internal and external to Vancouver Island.

“Domestic and international investment is pursued with the intent of balancing environmental stewardship and natural resource conservation with the enhancement of municipal fiscal sustainability, increased vibrancy of the regional economy, and the provision of quality employment opportunities.”

The Strategy makes eight recommendations to guide industrial and employment lands development in the Comox Valley. It includes working with K’ómoks First Nation to identify and assess opportunities for employment and industrial lands development, and innovative solutions to development constraints, and developing the Bevan Road lands as the key industrial area in the Comox Valley, to accommodate long term employment growth.

A number of important industries are identified as priorities, including:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services – management, scientific and technical consulting services and architectural, engineering and related services.
  • Construction– residential building construction, other heavy and civil engineering construction, building finishing contractors, and other specialty trade contractors.
  • Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas, including forest nurseries and gathering of forest products, fishing, support activities for forestry (i.e. pest control services, log hauling in the forest, timber cruising and valuation, etc.), logging, and greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production.

Other export-oriented/non-retail industries that would be suitable include:

  • Manufacturing – sugar and confectionery product manufacturing, dairy product manufacturing, metal product fabrication (e.g. boiler, tanks and shipping containers, springs, wire), seafood product preparation and packaging, and veneer, plywood and engineered wood product manufacturing.
  • Agriculture (including aquaculture) – support activities for animal production (i.e. breeding services for livestock, artificial insemination services, cattle registration service, etc.), hog and pig farming, other animal production (i.e. apiculture, horse and other equine production, fur-bearing animal and rabbit production, etc.), and sheep and goat farming.
  • Transportation and warehousing – airport operations, servicing aircraft, repairing and maintaining aircraft, and inspecting and testing aircraft, support activities for water transportation, i.e.: marine cargo handling, navigational services to shipping, ship repair and maintenance not done in a shipyard and lighter operations. Also, deep sea and coastal water transportation, and other transit and ground passenger transportation.
  • Tourism and resort development – heritage institutions, traveller accommodation, full-service restaurants and limited-service eating places, scenic and sightseeing transportation, recreational vehicle parks and recreational camps, other amusement and recreation industries and special food services.

Watson points out there are short, medium and long-term opportunities.

Immediately, opportunities exist for professional services and technology.

Next, a deepening relationship with K’ómoks First Nation is expected to further the position of the Comox Valley as a centre for aquaculture and seafood processing.

Further down the road, a goal it to explore the potential to develop an Eco-Industrial Park in the Bevan Road lands in Cumberland.

“That would include identifying new partnerships and industries that can help to position the Comox Valley as a centre of excellence for environmental sustainability in primary and secondary manufacturing are some of the actions that should be considered,” Watson notes.