Editor’s NOTE: Taken from the special print issue of the Squamish Reporter charting the town’s future, this article by Dave Crewson presents his vision on Entrepreneurship.
Take a minute to close your eyes and imagine where and how you will be working in twenty years.
With any luck, I’ll be retired. But baring that good fortune, I will have long ago ditched my laptop and smart phone, yet remain hyper-connected with customers and colleagues across the world using currently unimaginable technology. I may be in a virtual conference while scaling the Grand Wall in my exoskeleton suit, approaching an awaiting laser zipline, where upon I will descend to the Squamish Oceanfront, which has finally… (oops, not going to touch that one).
The way that we work and do business is rapidly changing. Within the past twenty years, monolithic and hierarchal employers have been replaced with organizations of highly networked free-agents. Jobs for a lifetime are being replaced with the lifetime of a job. So how will we prepare for working in 2035?
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, examines global trends and recommends policies to governments interested in improving the economic and social well being of people around the world. According to their projections, GDP growth in G-20 countries will diminish, and see a major shift towards emerging economies, particularly those in Asia.
If we are to have a locally thriving economy in 2035, we will have been actively supporting our local entrepreneurial organizations to develop relationships with these markets though networks, joint ventures, partnerships, migration and multinational companies.
Scale will be required to access these markets, so we will have focused on developing high-growth companies. These companies are the panacea of productivity gain, job growth and economic stimulus, through both export and the clustering of related companies within a regional network. A strong secondary economy will have emerged to provide the services required to support their growth.
Globalization has already become a well-entrenched economic paradigm, facilitated by the advancement of our digital lifestyle. Not only will our markets be remote, but the concept of the traditional workplace will also be challenged. Human interaction and relationships will remain the foundation of business and innovation, but as communication technologies improve, sensory barriers will be reduced, which will increase the productivity of highly distributed work forces.
The current challenge of daily and weekly commutes to jobs in other places will be resolved by virtual workplaces. Residents will work for remote companies from the comfort of Squamish, and local entrepreneurs can supplement the regional workforce with access to a global talent pool.
Accordingly, tourism has finally become accepted as a key factor of our economy, but not as a leading economic driver. It serves to create a global brand and preserve our community as an attractive place to live, acting like a talent magnet, marketing our community to those who share the values of a healthy lifestyle and a diverse economy of complementary industries.
Despite the value of tourism, climate change will have regrettably reduced many of the snow sports, including the ski industry, to nostalgia and historic commentary. However, these same environmental impacts will have created many new economic opportunities.
Locally established start-ups will have developed solutions to focus on the stewardship of our environment, such as leveraging the cash flows of current energy resources to develop more benign forms of energy generation, distribution, and consumption. Other firms will be focusing on environmental remediation and technologies such as carbon sequestration and solar radiation management.
To develop and support these ventures, we will have a strong culture of innovation and appetite for risk, realizing that continual learning is intrinsic to remaining regionally competitive. We will exist in an information rich environment, where porous boundaries between government, business and institutions promote the rapid exchange of tacit knowledge. The expansion of our regional knowledge base will come from the retention of Quest students within our local companies, but also from the applied research facilities sponsored by industry to solve market-driven problems.
By 2035, we will have had a number of entrepreneurs sell their high-growth companies, giving the founders and their employees’ huge capital windfalls and increasing the net wealth of the community. The capital and experience from the sale of one company is invested in community organizations and the next generation of entrepreneurs, creating a healthy community, self-sustaining ecology of business and a destination for entrepreneurship.
Obviously, there is no crystal ball that allows us to predict our future, but we have the means to achieve these goals of prosperity. Courageous decisions are required to break the economic inertia and avoid being consumed by the homogenous sprawl of the lower mainland. We have an enviable set of pre-conditions that can create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and provide opportunities for all residents.
However, our long-term stability and prosperity is the responsibility of the entire community, including both the private and public sectors. We must commit to the long-term process of investing in intentional activities to improve our local economic well being so that we may take charge of our destiny.
Photo: JOANNA SCHWARZ