Community Economic Development Information Package


The Parksville Qualicum Beach geographic region is defined as the municipalities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach, plus the surrounding unincorporated Electoral Areas E, F, G and H of the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Snaw-Naw-As and Qualicum First Nations Reserves.

Parksville - Qualicum Beach Community Overview


A growing, progressive community located on the sheltered eastern shores of Vancouver Island, just 37 km north of Nanaimo  and BC Ferry Terminals to the mainland. The Regions easy access to major transportation linkages helps to make it both a thriving place to do business and a popular vacation destination.

Residents place a high value on their community's spectacular natural setting, surrounded by beautiful beaches, mountains, lakes and rivers. Together, the municipalities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach and the surrounding areas strive to maintain and enhance the quality of life they now enjoy. And they make sure to have fun! The community annually hosts a wide range of recreational and cultural events and is central to a variety of golf courses. An excellent combination of retirement, business and recreational opportunities, facilities and services make the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region a great place for people of all ages to live and to work!

Demographics Data

article-006The region's total Census population was about 46,600 in 2016, an increase of over 2,100 people (4.75%) since 2011. This is slightly slower growth than the rest of the Regional District of Nanaimo (5.9%) and BC overall (5.6%).

The greatest population increase in the region was in Parksville, which added nearly 1,000 residents (a 9.0% increase). In percentage terms the fastest growing part of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach region was Area F, including Errington, Coombs and Hilliers, which expanded by nearly 750 people (11.1%). The other sub-areas within Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region all grew at a more modest rate.

Census Population and Growth, Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region Communities

One of the notable features of Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region is that less than half of the total population is contained in the two central municipalities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region's 5.4% population growth from 2006 to 2011 ranked 4th in a comparison group of other similar BC Communities, trailing only the Courtenay Census Agglomeration on Vancouver Island.


All of the communities in the comparison group are in the Kootenays, the Okanagan/Shuswap or on Vancouver Island and therefore all are appealing for retirement and recreation, which is helping to support sustained population growth even when traditional resource industries have been declining in many of these locations. The Port Alberni area is included in the group for its close proximity to the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region but is least like the other communities in the retiree/recreation market, largely explaining its virtually flat population growth in recent years.

Looking over a longer time horizon, The Parksville-Qualicum Beach's population (as defined by the Qualicum Local Health Area, which includes less than 500 people on Lasqueti Island) has expanded by an average of 2.8% per year over the 25 years from 1986 to 2011. This is easily the fastest growth rate in the comparison group in the last quarter century.

This history of strong growth is solid evidence of the Parksville Qualicum Beach Region's continuing appeal as a place to live. The steady influx of new residents adds to the dynamic regional market and deepens the area's vital human capital assets.


Labour Force Data

The resource-based industries that once dominated the local economy have been surpassed by growth in the retail, sales, tourism, service, wholesale trade, construction, and health and education sectors. 2011 Census information from the National Household Survey (NHS) for the Parksville and Qualicum Beach area (commonly referred to as Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region) indicates the largest portion of the labour force participates in these top three occupations: sales and service (25%), trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (15%) and business, finance and administration (14%). In the last six years, 17% of jobs posted on the Career Centre website were for retail salespersons, cooks and food and beverage servers.

Domination by Small Business and Self-Employment

article-009Small business is the largest employer in the area which has a small-town atmosphere and lifestyle, yet Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region is still close to airports and ferries, which attracts new businesses and entrepreneurs. In 2008, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Report on Top Entrepreneurial Cities rated Parksville the second most entrepreneurial city in Canada. Even in an economic downturn, the City of Parksville reported growth in new business.


The Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region region is a Vancouver Island tourism destination. The majority of business in the area is based on tourism. The 2011 Census information from the NHS indicated retail trade as being the number one industry in Parksville and Qualicum, health care the second, with accommodation and food service being the third largest industry in the Parksville and Qualicum area. The local tourism association’s report, Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region’s Tourism Economy: article-014An Assessment of the Value of Tourism in Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region, estimates 40% of local businesses report tourism spending is either their primary or secondary source of revenue. One of the longest-standing and largest tourism industry employers in the area, Tigh-Na-Mara Spa and Resort, employs approximately 290 employees. The tourism industry has continued to grow and, in addition to new restaurants and attractions, new resorts opening in the past few years include The Beach Club, Oceanside Village Resort, Sunrise Ridge Waterfront Resort and most recently the Qualicum Beach Inn. According to Blain Sepos, Executive Director of Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism, they are anticipating a prosperous summer for Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region hotels and tourist attractions. "Parksville Qualicum Beach has earned record visitor revenues for the last number of years." Tourism and the high number of retirees also create spin-off businesses to meet the recreation needs of this demographic. The area includes seven golf courses and these businesses often post for positions. Retail trade is another component of the tourism industry and this region includes a number of smaller gift and retail shops as well as other supporting retailers, such as gasoline stations. The major employers in retail trade include grocery store chains such as Thrifty’s, Quality Foods and Save-On-Foods.

Retirement Community

article-002Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region’s beaches, mild climate, small town lifestyle, relatively low real estate prices (compared to major centers) and access to abundant outdoor activities attract many new residents every month. Many of these are semi-retired professionals. The 2016 Census reports the Parksville median age as 60.9 and the Qualicum Beach median age as 65.9, significantly higher than the BC average of 43.0. The older demographic creates opportunities in recreation and wellness. The community has many golf courses, health food stores and fitness centers.

Health Care

The region also supports the health needs of the aging population. The major employer for health services is Island Health (previously known at Vancouver Island Health Authority). There are several pharmacies and five large assisted living facilities in the area. The 2011 Census information from the NHS indicates health care and social assistance as the second largest industry in Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region with 12% of the labour force participating in this industry. This number has increased with the opening of large assisted living facilities in Parksville and Qualicum in the last few years: Stanford Place, employing approximately 230 employees; and The Gardens, employing approximately 200 employees. In 2013, the Oceanside Primary and Urgent Care Centre opened and this created more opportunities for LPN’s, RN’s, Health Care Assistants and medical office personnel.

Niche Markets

article-005There are a number of niche businesses that can be found in the hidden job market. Many of these are new businesses and include knowledge-based companies, such as web hosting companies and software developers. Other niche businesses include high-tech manufacturers (such as an electric vehicle manufacturer), specialty mills and food producers. Another company, Blue Coast Group, currently employs 24 staff and specializes in mineral processing and has a metallurgical test-work facility. We recently wrote a wage subsidy agreement for an apprentice silver/goldsmith in Qualicum Beach. Aquaculture is also a growing industry in the area featuring world class scallop and oyster farms.


There are a number of residential developments taking place as well as some local commercial/residential buildings such as a new Quality Foods store. There is an increased demand for construction labourers.


article-003Aquaculture is a growing industry in the area and in Electoral Area H, Shaw Hill, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay and Bowser. There are productive scallop and oyster farms, such as Island Scallops, which employ approximately 35 people and Odyssey and Stellar Bay Shellfish. In 2011, Vancouver Island University opened the Deep Bay Marine Station, north of Qualicum Beach. 


Agriculture and agri-tourism are growing industries in the area. Qualicum Beach and Errington Farmers’ Markets provide the platform for many small farms to sell their goods. Speciality farms such as Duckett Truffieres, Nanoose Edibles, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Vancouver Island Wasabi are mounting in popularity. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks employs approximately 15 people and is a growing business that has responded to the thriving food and tourism market.



There are speciality mills in Electoral Area F that often post on the CVIJOBS job posting site and employ a number of residents in the area. Mills in Electoral Area F include Aqulia Cedar Products. Another speciality mill, Long Hoh Enterprises Canada Ltd., located in Qualicum Beach employs approximately 60 people.


Although manufacturing is not a key industry in the area, there are niche manufacturing businesses thriving in the region. One example is Canadian Electric Vehicles (CEV). This company has been in business for over 25 years. CEV has been designing and manufacturing electric vehicles and components in their Parksville plant. CEV is a local success story as an employer and corporate citizen, and has a far-reaching client base that includes provincial and federal governments, private individuals and corporate clients in eight countries. Other small manufacturers include Lightspeed Watercraft, Express Custom Mfg., Coastal Colour Printing Ltd. and Wellington Foundry.

Educational Services

article-015School District 69 is the largest employer in the area, with approximately 800 employees. Vancouver Island University has a Parksville/Qualicum campus based in Parksville and is active in the community.
Emerging Industries: Due to the lifestyle in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region, high tech businesses have chosen to locate here. These include web hosting companies such as Bravenet and Hosting Nation, to software development companies such as Legna Software (formerly TradeTec Computer Systems), USNR and One Step Systems. In addition many solopreneurs developing games and working with the film industry have located to the area. The town of Qualicum Beach has opened a digital media studio to help attract and support people who work in the technology sector. The film industry is another growing industry and Vancouver Island North Film Commission promotes the area to prospective clients.

Industry Growth

article-001Future opportunities for business will continue to increase in health care and tourism. Many people move to the region in the 10 years before they plan to retire. The majority are skilled professionals who have done well in their careers before moving to the island. They tend to be healthy and active and willing to invest in the community spending their money on housing and recreation. There is still an untapped opportunity to meet the recreation needs of the younger “baby boomers”.
The 2015 Parksville Economic Development Strategy Update identifies opportunities for future economic growth in Parksville. These opportunities continue today and include:

  • High tech internet based businesses
  • Light industrial development
  • Retail and service commercial development
  • Downtown Parksville development
  • Home-based business
  • Tourism recreation, including arts and culture
  • Retirement living
  • Health and wellness

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 a drop trailer service that places trailers on the ferry and takes them off again, negating the need for tractor and driver to travel.

article-007With 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 harbour to harbour 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. 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.

article-004Parksville-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. 

In January 2020 the City of Parksville opened its $41.7 million Englishman River Water Services treatment plant.  The plant pups out between onemillion and two million litres of water per day to homes and businesses in Parksville and Nanoose Bay.  The facility was designed to take the pressure off local wells and aquifers enabling the communities to continue to grow.

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.

article-013Lease rates are affordable - in the range of $9-14 per square foot for industrial space and $14-16 per square foot for commercial space. 

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.


affordableMany 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 improved with the opening of the Oceanside Health Centre in 2013 (and the community is relatively close to full-service hospitals in Nanaimo and Comox).

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 attracting needed skilled workers if they are being recruited from elsewhere in Canada where housing costs may be lower.

Average single family house prices in 2019 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 2019 was $343,000 in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Region and a townhouse was $520,000.


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).

article-016It 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 fare reasonably well on this comparison. Business Tax rates are 2.42 times higher than residential rates in Qualicum Beach and 2.75 times higher in Parksville. This is a greater disparity than in Penticton and Port Alberni but lower than the Comox Valley (Comox and Courtenay) 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. 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.


Parksville Qualicum Beach | 250.250.3613 |