The Pacific Northwest shares a deep sense of place, an identity shaped by mountains and sea, and an understanding that the key to our future is technology.
Despite being separated by an international border, there’s a great deal more that unites the 140-mile stretch from Vancouver to Seattle than divides it. The Pacific Northwest shares a deep sense of place, an identity shaped by the mountains and sea, and – increasingly – an understanding that the key to our future is technology.
Tech is among the fastest-growing industries in British Columbia, which has the most robust economy in Canada. B.C. recently eclipsed 100,000 tech jobs in the province, a milestone that even a few years ago would have seemed improbable. Most importantly, the region is turning decisively away from an unsustainable economy built on resource extraction – mining, logging and fishing – to one built around the longest-lasting and most renewable of all resources, human ingenuity.
The Cascadia Innovation Corridor – an ambitious initiative to get companies, universities and governments on both sides of the border working closer together – is a key to sustaining this momentum. Strengthening connectivity in technology, transportation and education opens the door to the potential to transform Cascadia into a global hub for innovation and research – not to mention set the 12 million people living in British Columbia and Washington state on the path toward a prosperous future.
This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky dream. Since the groundwork was laid last year, real momentum has built. In February, Microsoft invested $1 million at the University of British Columbia to foster collaborative projects with the University of Washington. This spring, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his vision for “innovation superclusters” at the Microsoft CEO Summit. Meanwhile, resources and funding already have been committed to exploring a 250-miles-per-hour high-speed rail line between Vancouver and Seattle.
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What’s it going to take to bring the Cascadia Innovation Corridor to the next level? Sustaining this spirit of cooperation at a time when some global currents are tugging Vancouver and Seattle in different directions. Time and time again, it’s been shown that collaboration across borders – not isolation or retrenchment – is the way to effect lasting, positive change. The surest way to safeguard and expand the enormous gains of the last decade is a redoubled commitment to sharing resources, human capital and ideas in the years ahead – and that’s what the Cascadia Innovation Corridor is all about.
The good news, of course, is that Cascadia already has an incredible foundation to build upon. Both sides of the border share a highly educated workforce, diverse communities, world-class universities and friendly cities. Deeper still, Cascadia’s biggest strength is an eagerness to look ahead, not back: a healthy willingness to acknowledge and try to solve problems – economic, environmental, political – rather than wish them away.
Climate change isn’t a myth here; it’s a dilemma to be addressed head on. Jobs in factories and mines aren’t coming back; so energy turns to training tomorrow’s workforce. Border walls and people bans hold little cachet in Cascadia. Instead, the focus is on finding ways for ideas and people to move freely.
There’s a reason the vision of Cascadia has fascinated dreamers and idealists on this incredible section of coast for more than two centuries. The Cascadia Innovation Corridor, once realized, stands to bring that dream a little closer to reality.
The Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference brings together business, academic, and government leaders from both sides of the border to explore new strategies for the region to come together, maximize our shared competitive advantages, and elevate our global economic position.