Transportation and Infrastructure
The physical movement of goods on and off Vancouver Island relies on air travel (limited to very high-value goods due to the cost) or marine shipping. Some industrial products move between the mainland and Vancouver Island by barge and there are significant port facilities at Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and several private industrial ports for direct shipping between Vancouver Island and the rest of the world.
The majority of goods movement occurs by truck and relies on BC Ferries who have recently instituted a service that places trailers on the ferry and takes them off again, negating the need for tractor and driver to travel.
With respect to air traffic, the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region area has the benefit of being in relatively close proximity to the Comox Valley Airport and its direct flights to Vancouver and Alberta. The Nanaimo Airport is the same distance from the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region and has daily flights to Vancouver and Seattle. Nanaimo also has a seaport and has daily harbor to harbor flights to downtown Vancouver, Victoria and Richmond.
In addition to BC Ferries with daily scheduled trips off the Island from Nanaimo and Victoria there is a foot passenger service to Seattle from Victoria, and in March 205 a new foot passenger downtown to downtown to downtown service will commence between Nanaimo and Vancouver. For vehicle travelers to the United States ferry service between Sydney and Anacortes operates daily as does service from Victoria to Port Angeles.
For distribution of goods within Vancouver Island, Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region has a central location for goods moving through Nanaimo to and from areas to the north. However, without port or large ferry facilities right in Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region, it is doubtful that distribution facilities would prefer a Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region location relative to Nanaimo (which has a larger local population, close proximity to port and ferry, and a central location for distribution in any direction on the Island). Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region also has the disadvantage of limited road connections to the Inland Island Highway that provide limited alternative routes in the event of a traffic disturbance that closes one of the roads.
There are ongoing efforts to revive passenger rail and freight service on Vancouver Island between the Victoria area and the Comox Valley, but the logistical viability of this service for Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region businesses has not yet been established.
Telecommunications and other basic infrastructure: These services like water, sewer and local streets are not usually a way for communities to distinguish themselves as a business location. They stand out only if they are deficient in some way.
Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region may be an exception, at least compared to some communities (e.g., Comox Valley) in having an Allstream fibre optic backbone running through the community, providing easy access to companies requiring fibre. This is a benefit for technologies like Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP), for example, or generally any company using the internet to regularly transfer massive amounts of data. Current cellular service is fair to good in all areas of the region.
The City of Parksville recently is in the planning process to build a modern water filtration plant and is researching the use of aquifer storage. These new processes scheduled to be complete by 2016 will allow for significant growth.
All communities in the region have prescribed capital infrastructure development and upgade plans in place.
Industrial Lands & Properties: Industrial land is available at several locations, including the Parksville Industrial Park and Qualicum Beach Airport, although there are always some development restrictions associated with airport locations. Several larger parcels are available in the rural areas but are generally raw land without pre-servicing.
Lease rates are affordable - in the range of $6-8 per square foot for industrial space and $12 per square foot for commercial space.
There is currently a great deal of activity in commercial development with Save-On Foods under construction (completion in March 2015); Canadian Tire scheduled to move into the existing Save On space and Quality Foods in the rezoning process to build a new 40,000 square foot store in the City of Parksville.
The recent completion of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region Health Centre has opened up some office space in the downtown area and there are several land tracts of a variety of sizes available for development in the downtown.
Many of the people in the business community have chosen to live and work in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region at least in part for lifestyle reasons. Apart from the obvious recreational opportunities afforded by Vancouver Island and the mild climate compared to the rest of Canada, the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region has a very high quality school system. Health services are being improved with the opening of the Oceanside Health Centre in 2013 (and the community is relatively close to a full-service hospital in Nanaimo).
The Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region is very appealing for families, but not as much for younger or single adults. High housing costs are also viewed as a deterrent for younger buyers and present a challenge for recruiting needed skilled workers if they are being recruited from elsewhere in Canada where housing costs are lower.
Average single family house prices in 2011 were the highest in the Parksville/Qualicum region compared to the other zones reported by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board.
The overall average masks some significant variability in prices within the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region. Generally homes in the rural areas north of Qualicum Beach are more affordable. Qualicum North (which includes Qualicum Bay and other areas between Qualicum Beach and Deep Bay/Bowser) as well as Bowser and Little Qualicum River all have average prices between 12% and 23% less than the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region average. Even the average sale price in Parksville is 10% lower than the regional average.
Another option is different housing forms, particularly for younger and first-time home buyers. The average sale price for an apartment condominium in 2011 was $250,000 in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region and a patio condo was $296,000.
There is no way to directly compare local property tax rates across municipalities due to different local market conditions (which can make the value of an otherwise identical property vary considerably from place to place) as well as legitimate differences in municipal operating costs (some of which might be due to different geographic or climactic conditions, or could be the result of community choices made over many years about the type and level of services provided).
It is possible, however, to compare the relative tax burden that municipalities place on businesses in their communities and how that burden changes over time.
The two municipalities in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region region fare reasonably well on this comparison. Business tax rates are 2.54 times higher than residential rates in Qualicum Beach and 2.64 times higher in Parksville. This is a greater disparity than in Penticton, Port Alberni and Campbell River, but lower than the Comox Valley (Comox and Courtenay), Cranbrook, Vernon and Salmon Arm.
Perhaps of greater interest is how these ratios evolve over time as this indicates municipal commitment to maintaining a healthy and cost-effective environment for their local businesses. By this measure Parksville has had the greatest increase in its business tax ratio since 2002 while Qualicum Beach's ratio has moved very little. The previous chart showed that Parksville currently ranks in the mid-range among the comparison group of communities, but 10 years ago had among the lowest ratios.With respect to local regulation and the development approval process, Parksville conducted a Development Process Review in 2011 and many of the recommendations have been implemented and a recent staff report to Council indicated that the balance of the recommendations will be adopted on a schedule to be determined by Council. The current increase in development activity in both communities is a strong indication of development optimism.