North Van: Top 10 difference makers
North Vancouver-based Seaspan Marine received waves of adulation last week after being awarded an $8-billion contract to build non-combat vessels for the Canadian government.
And nowhere was the cheering louder than North Vancouver. Along with all the economic spin-offs from the contract that will boost the local economy for decades to come there will also be thousands of new jobs created — around 4,000 over the next eight years — that will bring more workers to live, work and consume here.
But Seaspan isn’t the only company contributing to the economic success and vibrancy of North Van. Countless other companies — private and public, large and small — are making a big difference here, either by the number of people they employ, their overall economic impact or by being good corporate citizens.
Anne McMullin, president and GM of the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, marvels at the diversity of employers located in the city and district of North Vancouver.
From large waterfront industries to a university and ski hills, to some of the biggest tourist attractions in the Lower Mainland, a thriving retail and restaurant sector and numerous home-based businesses — “it’s all right here,” she says.
And as well as providing jobs and paying taxes, these businesses are also giving back to the community by supporting local sports, arts and environmental groups and helping those in need.
“Business is a huge part of what makes the community strong,” adds McMullin.
Recently The Outlook got to thinking about local companies that were making a difference and we wanted to learn more about them. This is by no means a definitive list of top employers in North Vancouver — only a selection of some businesses that stand out (in no particular order). No doubt there are countless others that are also making equally significant contributions to our community — and we’d like to hear about them too. You can drop us an email to email@example.com to tell us more.
North Vancouver School District
With more than 2,000 workers and 16,262 daily “customers,” the North Vancouver School District is one of the most significant employers on the North Shore, the largest in the public sector at any rate.
And while educating young people at 26 elementary schools and seven secondaries is a noble enough cause to earn them inclusion on this list, the NVSD is also proud to go the extra mile with nationally recognized corollary programs and extra-curriculars in math, reading and music.
In addition to providing regular services to its 9,005 elementary and 7,257 high school students, the NVSD also operates the North Vancouver Outdoor School, an important environmental education centre near Squamish.
Calling itself the “top employer of youth on the North Shore,” Grouse Mountain Resorts’ workforce varies with the seasons, naturally.
When ski season’s in full swing, a staff of about 900 are employed at the resort.
That staff is reduced by more than half to 400 in the spring, summer and fall when the Grouse Grind takes over as the main mountain attraction.
Grouse Mountain Resorts — which also operates the popular Skyride gondolas and Eye of the Wind turbine tours — kicks an estimated $120 million into the local economy annually.
District of North Vancouver
With more than 1,500 staff members in 15 locations, the District of North Vancouver is one of the North Shore’s largest and most diverse employers.
Operating everything from libraries, parks, rec centres, a golf course and the municipal hall, the district offers a range of employment from part-time seasonal work to permanent full-time careers for mechanics, truck drivers, engineers, business analysts, design technicians, administrative professionals and inspectors.
District employees are also heavily involved in the community, not only as firefighters and police officers, but those everyday staffers who volunteer with a variety of different charities helping to make a difference on the North Shore.
Capilano University, the North Shore’s only degree-granting institution has been a fixture in North Vancouver for more than four decades. Today, the school boasts a faculty of 700 instructors and 250 administration and support staff.
“I’m really honoured to have Cap recognized because I do think this is a wonderful place to work,” Cap U. president Kris Bulcroft told The Outlook. “I think most of the people who have been here for a short time and long-term would certainly agree.”
Aside from a good place to work, it may soon be a place to live as the school considers adding residences in its future expansion plans, she said.
Chief among the school’s community outreach initiatives is its free speakers series at North Vancouver libraries in which Cap U. faculty offer free talks with the public on their specific field of expertise.
Founded in 1991, the ascent of Arc’teryx to the top of the outdoor garment business is a homegrown success story as evocative as the North Shore mountains.
With its head offices still in North Vancouver, Arc’teryx maintains a staff of 123 administrative employees here, while 230 work at its Burnaby factory and 25 to 30 more at its Coquitlam warehouse.
Company spokeswoman Jo Salomon told The Outlook that all staff are deeply committed to the kind of environmental issues that are important to North Shore residents like alternative transit, wildlife, hiking trail and shoreline preservation.
Neptune Terminals has been a North Shore neighbour for more than 40 years, moving Canadian bulk exports onto ships bound for nearly every foreign shore.
Neptune’s operations are important not only to the North Vancouver community it calls home but to the wider Canadian economy too as one of Port Metro Vancouver’s major companies.
Neptune participates in educational programs in North Shore schools which teach school kids and Capilano University students about the operations of the port. In addition, Neptune regularly supports the local Athletics for Kids program, Mission Possible, United Way and Canadian Blood Services.
North Shore Credit Union
It has 300 employees and approximately $2.5 billion in assets, but for the North Shore Credit Union it’s not just about the bottom line. NSCU was recently named one of the “10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures of 2011 in Western Canada” by Waterstone Human Capital.
According to the company, part of its success in retaining its valued employees comes from the employee feedback it gets from the annual employee opinion surveys it conducts through an independent third party. The credit union uses those results to tailor its workplaces to its employees’ wishes. The NSCU will open its new corporate head office at the corner of E 13th Street and Lonsdale Avenue by 2014.
City of North Vancouver
The City of North Vancouver believes in encouraging a healthy work-life balance among its employees. To this end, the city has devised a “compressed work schedule” allowing one scheduled day off every three weeks, plus on-site fitness facilities and health and nutrition sessions for employees. There are myriad job descriptions at the city from grounds keepers to administrators. Other perks for employees include education funding for career advancement and a TransLink transit subsidy.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge, a preeminent North Shore attraction, directly employs about 225 staff during its peak summer season, dropping to 140 core employees year round. But, like most tourist destinations, the economic benefits of this North Van attraction literally trickle down the mountain to area businesses, especially to the service industry.
Some of the perks of the job — whether seasonal or full-time — include a chummy workplace culture, employee scholarships and famous seasonal parties.
CSB is also known for giving back to the North Shore by way of the tens of thousands of dollars it raises annually for the B.C. firefighters burn fund and for breast cancer research with Bras Across the Bridge.
With a regular staff of between 1,500 and 2,000 employees, Seaspan Marine is one of the largest employers on the North Shore. And, with the recent award of an $8-billion federal shipbuilding contract, those numbers are expected to grow by an estimated 4,000 new jobs over the next eight years.
In addition to shipbuilding, Seaspan also offers commercial marine ferry services, barging, docking, escorting and ship repair.
Incorporated as Seaspan in 1970, the umbrella company is the only marine firm in Canada with a 5-year partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to protect endangered species and their habitat.