Long-known for its natural beauty and laid-back charm, British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is experiencing a mini economic boom these days as people from across the country – and the world – seek to call this little slice of paradise home.
And the secret behind this seaside sea change is out.
“So many employers have reframed the traditional workplace into one that’s hybrid or fully remote. It has really opened the door to more flexibility and options for families and individuals to move to their dream communities, like Sechelt, and work remotely,” says John Henderson, mayor of the District of Sechelt. Sechelt is a hub of outdoor adventure, art and entrepreneurship among the many communities that dot the region’s dramatic coastline.
“Conducting business or calling home halfway around the world has never been easier.”
The Sunshine Coast’s renewed appeal comes as communities in Canada celebrate 10 years of TELUS PureFibre connectivity. Since 2013, TELUS has invested over $7 billion nationally to expand its award-winning PureFibre network, with hundreds of thousands more homes and businesses expected to connect this year.
TELUS’ investments in the Sunshine Coast are part of the technology company’s ongoing commitment to British Columbia. Since 2000, the company has invested $59 billion in technology and operations across the province and has committed another $18.5 billion in network infrastructure and operations across the province through 2027. Across Canada, TELUS’ investments tally $81 billion by 2027.
Working from home, wherever that may be
Connected in 2013, Sechelt residents are “proud” to have been one of the first communities to benefit from PureFibre, says Henderson. Access to such a powerful and reliable network, with speeds on par with urban centres, means a whole new group of people – including contractors, tech workers, media marketers and film industry professionals – can set up shop in this beautiful part of the country, without sacrificing professional ambitions.
“We are accustomed to being on the leading edge of technology. This growth opens a lot of diverse opportunities which is great for current residents and very attractive to people wanting to make the move here,” he adds.
That’s true for Dean Fleten, who says access to TELUS PureFibre has been nothing short of life-changing.
Fleten is a safety advisor with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), one of five health authorities in B.C. VCH oversees the entirety of Mainland Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, and Fleten is responsible for protecting the health and safety of its coastal employees. When incidents occur, Fleten works with employees and their managers to ensure the highest safety standards are being met.
“It’s a lot of ground to cover. Anyone who is familiar with the area, knows that it would be virtually impossible to travel to every location and still get the job done. Access to reliable connectivity is an essential tool, allowing me to engage with employees across the area, all from my home in Sechelt,” says Fleten.
Fleten used to live in North Vancouver where he looked after the Vancouver General Hospital. But his wife grew up on the Sunshine Coast, where her family still resides. Safe in the knowledge that Sechelt is one of 186 TELUS PureFibre communities, Fleten asked to be transferred to the Sunshine Coast, where he now lives with his wife, new baby boy and rescue dog.
“Moving over here has improved our quality of life tremendously. We’re closer to family. I get to spend more time with my family. And we get to spend a lot more time out on the water. All while continuing to make a difference in my community,” he says.
Fleten and the work-from-home model he has adopted are far from being an isolated occurrence. According to Statistics Canada, more than 30 per cent of those working in Gibsons, Sechelt and neighbouring PureFibre-connected communities either work at home or have no fixed workplace. The average for B.C. is less than 20 per cent.
In fact, the Sunshine Coast experience is part of a broader trend across the country as young families flee congested cities in favour of more livable communities. Up until now, many Canadians were forced to abandon the towns they grew up in and loved, because so many top jobs were only available to big city dwellers. As a result, smaller communities – whole regions even – struggled to compete with the economic opportunity concentrated in large cities. But remote work, spurred by network investments, has changed the equation.
“More and more urban workers have made the transition to rural communities either as a result of supportive work-from-home policies, a desire to achieve greater balance between vocation and recreation or simply because they want more space to raise young families,” says Colin Stansfield, executive director of the Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Organization (SCREDO).
“Access to reliable, high-speed internet contributes to a thriving and attractive business climate and sets communities like Sechelt and the rest of the southern Sunshine Coast apart from other rural communities.”
New people, new energy
In response to the changing work landscape, and as a means to support remote professionals and entrepreneurs, SCREDO operates a network of FUSE Community Workhubs in Gibsons, Sechelt and nearby Pender Harbour. The hubs provide a 24/7 meeting space with lightning-fast internet and networking opportunities for people who work from home, live on the Coast part-time, or are in town for business or vacation.
“It’s good for the tourism industry as well. We’ve heard frequently from visitors that having access to FUSE, with its reliable fibre connectivity that can easily accommodate more bandwidth-intensive activities like video conferencing, allows them to take extended out-of-office vacations, spending time with family and enjoying the best of what the Coast has to offer, while still staying connected to work and community obligations,” says Stansfield.
The arrival of new families in communities like Sechelt is bringing new energy to the Sunshine Coast.
“Strong connectivity is a necessity now that many people work remote or hybrid. While Sechelt entices people with its slower pace of life compared to a bustling metropolis, our connectivity keeps us on par with cities,” says Mayor Henderson.
“Newcomers and businesses create even more vitality for any community. Creating more choices to shop and having more attractions for tourists makes Sechelt a particularly exciting place to live, work and play.”