Location and history
Located in the Pacific coast of Canada, Vancouver is the largest city in the province of British Columbia, but not its capital. The capital is Victoria, located on nearby Vancouver Island. Metro Vancouver covers 114.7 sq km/44.3 sq mi, with the Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south. It boasts one of the largest city parks on the continent, Stanley Park, which takes up 405 hectares/1001 acres.
It is a densely populated city of different ethnic neighborhoods. The metro area has a population of over two million, with just over half a million in the city itself.
Despite its harborside location, Vancouver is not far from the mountains. A range known as the North Shore Mountains overlooks the city, providing both beauty and winter sports opportunities. The famous Whistler Mountain resort is only 115 km/70 mi north of downtown Vancouver.
Established in 1886, the city was named for British naval officer Captain George Vancouver. Later that year, a fire devastated the city, leaving little standing. Within a year, most of it had been rebuilt. Fur trading and gold mining both led to early growth. The arrival of the railroad and development of fish canneries created more opportunities and brought waves of immigrant workers.
World War II was responsible for another economic growth spurt, as people came to Vancouver to work in munitions factories and ship yards. Urban development continued, and a few decades later, Vancouver earned a reputation for activism and counterculture in the 1960s and '70's; the Greenpeace organization was founded there.
In 1986, Vancouver celebrated its 100th anniversary and hosted the World's Fair known as Expo 86. Twenty-four years later, Vancouver would host the 2010 Winter Olympic games, construction for which included a new airport commuter rail, sports venues, and athlete accommodations that are used as apartment buildings today.
With its beautiful surroundings of water and mountains, Vancouver has been blessed by its environment. Measures have been initiated to protect that environment, with a goal to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.
Forestry, fishing and trade have been Vancouver's traditional industries. Home to Canada's largest port, it also relies on biotech, software, and film industries to fuel its economy. In fact, Vancouver is largely responsible for Canada's film industry being dubbed Hollywood North. British Columbia is the third largest center for film and television production in the world, after Los Angeles and New York City. Tourism has also grown into an economic mainstay.
According to recent census data listing the largest industries by number employed, the top five are: health care and social service; professional, scientific and technical services; construction; educational services; and finance, insurance, real estate and leasing.
The local tax regime is very favorable for businesses; KPMG notes that Vancouver is among the lowest-taxed jurisdictions in the developed world. Unemployment has was at 7.5 percent for 2010, but had dropped to 6.3 percent by December of 2011.
Quality of life
Vancouver routinely ranks high in quality of life surveys. The 2011 Mercer survey ranked it first in the Americas, and tied for fifth overall in the world. Crtiteria for this ranking include safety, education, hygiene, health care, culture, environment, recreation, political and economic stability, and public transportation.
Enjoying several of the same characteristics as other Canadian cities that also rank high, Vancouver has the added bonus of being spared the frigid Canadian winters experienced by those other locations.
The city has an international feel, and is very conducive to doing business with people around the world. In fact, Amsterdam-based International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranks it the top North American city for international meetings, a distinction that both boosts the city economy and bespeaks an excellent environment for businesspeople from around the globe.