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Regional Highlight Series: Kootenay

There are many studies that indicate that quality of life has a significant impact on productivity and business success, but in the fast-paced world of international business it isn’t always easy or convenient to make time for lifestyle pursuits. Unless, of course, you live in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, where rural beauty meets urban amenities and opportunities in technology, natural resources, agriculture and manufacturing.

Tech and Innovation

The Kootenay tech sector has been growing for several years but that growth has become exponential. For example, Selkirk College’s 3D printing filaments project and Rossland crowdsourcing company Thoughtexchange have attracted major investments. Only six months after raising $20 million in Series B financing, Thoughtexchange has raised an additional $10 million to support its expansion following a 600% surge in growth.

Other Kootenay startups to watch include PodTech, which manufactures modular data servers inside shipping containers; a crowdfunded college tool called EduFunder; smarter vending machines through SMRT1 Technologies; Pixel Cents, a book and app that helps photographers price their images and build businesses; and Cronometre, an app for tracking nutritional value.

Startups are supported by the Kootenay Association for Science & Technology and the Venture Acceleration Program, an initiative of Innovate BC that helps early-stage entrepreneurs grow their companies. The program in the Kootenay region is also supported by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

Companies in Nelson include D-Pace, CoreLogic, SMRT1, Traction on Demand, Cover Architecture Collaborative Inc., Valid Manufacturing Ltd. and more. The suite of services is far reaching, from commercial accelerator products and business intelligence and customization to software consulting and application development. Clean tech is especially inspired there, with companies working on energy conservation and sustainable design for buildings and vehicles.

Tech companies draw inspiration from the region’s strong natural resource sector and are revolutionizing industry processes. Mining and forestry companies are turning to virtual and augmented reality solutions to site safety and efficiency.

Natural Resources

Cranbrook is the largest urban centre in southeastern B.C. and has a robust investment profile and economic development plan. It is a hub community in the region with the main campus of College of the Rockies, a regional hospital and opportunities in the natural resource sector, especially in forestry, value-added manufacturing and bioenergy. The Canadian Rockies International Airport offers direct international flights, making business travel a breeze.

Geoscience BC has designed a new earth science model to boost mining in the province by improving  understanding of the geology that holds world-class mineral deposits in the Kootenays.

Kootenay Business has more information on all kinds of opportunities in the region, including forestry and mining.


Agriculture and wineries represent a sector ripe with opportunity in the Kootenay Development Region. The land supports ranching and dairy production as well as fertile growing conditions for grains, fruits and vegetables. Long, warm summers make the region ideal for grape growing and wine production.

One of the advantages of British Columbia is the size of the province, and the Kootenay region is no exception. Large parcels of land are available at competitive prices. Nearly 400,000 hectares of land is dedicated to the Agricultural Land Reserve. The thousands of farms in this region generate millions in revenue for the province.

Emerging opportunities in the agricultural sector include wineries, and processing and value-added production. Recent trends have encouraged ranching expansion as well as the farming of turkeys, goats for dairy operation and artisan cheeses, and Christmas trees as future viable enterprises, in addition to grapes and wineries.

A more detailed overview of agriculture opportunities in the region is available from Imagine Kootenay.


The Columbia Valley includes the municipalities of Invermere, Radium and Canal Flats. Growing manufacturing sectors include food and beverage processors and technology and advanced manufacturing at the Columbia Lake Technology Center at Canal Flats.

Manufacturing is an important economic driver as it accounts for more than 400,000 jobs in the province of British Columbia and approximately 9% of provincial GDP. Historically, the sector has been dominated by wood products and metals production within the West Kootenay region. These products continue to be important, however, the sector is developing a diversified mix of products that include electronics, scientific instruments, aerospace parts, clothing and textiles, beverage products, and specialty industrial part production.

The homelands of the Ktunaxa peoples, the Kootenays are known for natural beauty and rich cultural history. The Kootenay Aboriginal Business Development Agency offers business services to Aboriginal entrepreneurs, boosting the diversity of the local economy. The headwaters of the Columbia river meet the Kootenay river tributary here, creating idyllic scenes and prime fishing conditions.

The Kootenay region has a lot to offer to businesses and budding entrepreneurs, and plenty of opportunities for investors. Learn more about regional economic development opportunities and supports from Community Futures, the economic development organization for the Kootenays. You can also visit our communities page.

Stay tuned for future blogs on other regions of British Columbia, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates.