Top five reasons to start your business in Cowichan
- Central location that is easy to access and connected by air and sea.
- Growing population that is pushing demand for new services and products.
- Diversified workforce with access to skills development programs.
- Competitive property options for industrial and commercial land.
- The warmest year-round climate in Canada.
Best for Business information and resources
Population and Workforce
A growing population
Cowichan’s population is growing steadily, rising from a population of 79,343 residents in 2011 to 83,148 in 2016 and to 89,013 in 2021.
The Region is home to the largest Indigenous population in British Columbia. Between 2016 and 2021, the population grew from 9,600 to 10,985.
(Source: Stats Canada 2021 Census)
|CVRD Geographic Region||2016||2021||Increase|
|Mill Bay/Malahat (Area A)||4,733||4,949||4.6%|
|Shawnigan Lake (Area B)||8,558||8,994||5.1%|
|Cobble Hill (Area C)||5,019||5,046||0.5%|
|Cowichan Bay (Area D)||3,243||3,530||8.8%|
|Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora (Area E)||4,121||4,253||3.2%|
|Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls (Area F)||1,629||1,804||10.7%|
|Saltair/Gulf Islands (Area G)||2,315||2,442||5.5%|
|North Oyster/Diamond (Area H)||2,446||2,603||6.4%|
|Youbou/Meade Creek (Area I)||1,206||1,423||18.0%|
|City of Duncan||4,944||5,047||2.1%|
|Municipality of North Cowichan||29,696||31,990||7.7%|
|Town of Ladysmith||8,537||8,990||5.3%|
|Town of Lake Cowichan||3,226||3,325||3.1%|
Population and Workforce
Cowichan’s 41,000 person workforce enjoys an average commute time of 20 minutes. Cowichan also draws on a nearby workforce of 79,000 in the Nanaimo region and more than 214,000 workers in Greater Victoria.
Our employment base is diversified, and spread across a wide variety of sectors. Health care and social assistance accounts for the largest percentage of jobs in Cowichan, and retail and construction follow close behind.
EMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY 2016 (Source: Stats Canada 2021 Census)
|Health care & social services||5,510||13.3|
|Accommodation & food services||2,685||6.5|
|Professional, scientific & technical services||2,495||6.0|
|Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting||1,955||4.7|
|Other services (except Public Administration)||1,945||4.7|
|Administrative support, waste management and remediation||1,945||4.7|
|Transportation and warehousing||1,400||3.4|
|Finance and insurance||1,050||2.5|
|Arts, entertainment & recreation||910||2.2|
|Real estate, rental & leasing||630||1.5|
|Information and cultural industries||545||1.3|
|Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction||260||0.6|
|Management of companies & enterprises||40||0.1|
Major employers in the Cowichan Valley
|School District 79||1,123|
|Western Forest Products||750|
|Timberwest Forest Products||Although TimberWest, does not accurately track exact employment numbers at this time, they are acknowledged as a major employer. They have approximately 2,000 employees throughout Vancouver Island, with a significant portion being located in sites across the Cowichan region.|
|Municipalty of North Cowichan||435|
|Cowichan Valley Regional District||360|
The Cowichan Valley Regional District engaged consulting company rennie, to produce long-term projections of population, housing and employment, to the year 2051. The employment numbers provided in this report do not take into account individuals who live outside the region and commute to work. Therefore, there are minor discrepancies from the these findings and what is provided on Statistics Canada.
The Full Report was released June 12, 2019.
Commercial and Industrial Real Estate
Commuting to Cowichan
Cowichan offers fast and easy access to Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver with frequent national and international connections. Float planes, helijet services, ferries and airports are all just a hop, skip and a jump away:
- Harbour Air offers up to 20 flights daily to and from Nanaimo, Victoria and Maple Bay to downtown Vancouver and up to six flights daily to and from Vancouver International Airport.
- Seair Seaplanes operates up to 12 scheduled flights daily from Vancouver Harbour and Vancouver Airport to and from the BC Ferries terminal at Departure Bay in Nanaimo.
- Helijet Services offers 12 weekday flights a day from Victoria and six flights daily from Nanaimo to the Vancouver Harbour, along with additional flights on the weekends.
- BC Ferries terminals are located in Nanaimo or Victoria; driving there from central Cowichan takes approximately one hour. Once you’ve boarded the ferry, the commuting time to Vancouver is less than two hours.
- Victoria International Airport (YYJ) is only 90 minutes from central Cowichan and has more than 100 daily flights throughout North America, including non-stop flights to major BC cities, Calgary and Toronto. YYJ rates as one of the top ten most-loved airports in the world according to CNN Travel.
- Nanaimo Airport is located just 30 minutes from central Cowichan and is one of the fastest-growing regional airports in Canada with a $7.5 million expansion of its terminal facilities planned to accommodate record-setting passenger growth. Air Canada, Island Express Air and WestJet operate daily scheduled flights to Vancouver and beyond.
- Nanaimo Airport Cargo: Air Canada Jazz and SkyLink Express provide air cargo service in conjunction with scheduled passenger flights. Five air couriers ship through the Nanaimo Airport – DHL Courier, Dynamex, FedEx, Purolator and UPS.
- Victoria International Airport: In addition to Air Canada, several air cargo companies provide international air freight options from Victoria International Airport.
- Nanaimo Port Authority: The Port of Nanaimo has the capacity to process 4.8 million tons of cargo and 4.8 million passengers each year.
- Duke Point Ferry Terminal provides container barge service to the Port of Vancouver as an international shipping destination.
- Nanaimo Wharf Terminal has three deep sea-berths and a cruise ship terminal.
- Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has four deep-water berths and terminal services that are strategically located adjacent to major shipping trade routes.
- Westcan Terminals Cowichan Bay is a diversified stevedoring, terminal and logistics company, operating throughout British Columbia.
- Coldstar Solutions Inc recently completed the expansion of a 72,000 square foot cold storage warehouse located at the north end of Cowichan and adjacent to the Nanaimo Airport.
- Van-Kam Freightways Ltd has service centres located in Nanaimo and Victoria.
- Comox Pacific Express has centres in Nanaimo and Victoria serving destinations around the province.
Our Competitive Advantages
Foreign Trade Zone Vancouver Island
- The Government of Canada has granted Foreign Trade Zone Point designation (FTZ-VI) to Vancouver Island, through the efforts of Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA).
- The FTZ helps island businesses produce goods for export through programs designed to defer duties and taxes to improve cash flow.
- Visit the Government of Canada’s Foreign Trade Zone and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance for more information.
Municipal activities and incentives
- City of Duncan has recently amended its zoning bylaws to provide greater flexibility for residential and commercial development.
- Ladysmith Waterfront Development Initiative – The Town of Ladysmith and the Stz’uminus First Nation are working in partnership to develop a dynamic plan for the Ladysmith Waterfront Area.
- The Town of Lake Cowichan recently developed a new Official Community Plan focused on increasing residential, commercial and industrial growth.
Commercial and industrial lease and purchase rates
Rentals (per square foot per annum)
- Retail net rental rates vary between $7.00 – $30.00 depending on the condition and location of the rental. Common Area Management (CAM) charges vary between $4.00 – $14.00
- Office net rental rates vary between $6.00 – $18.00, with CAM charges of between $4.00 – $9.00
- Industrial net rental rates are between $7.00 – $15.00 with CAM charges of $2.50 – $3.50
Average Purchase Price (per square foot)
- Retail: New construction ranges from about $225.00 – $350.00, existing space is as low as $75.00
- Office: New $200.00 – $325.00; existing starting from about $75.00
- Industrial: Vacant land $6.00 – $17.00, built out $75.00 – $260.00 depending on requirements
For information on Commercial Realtors in the Cowichan Valley, please visit the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board.
- Trade and Invest BC provides employment stats, demographics, transportation, labour force and logistics information for the region and information on commercial and industrial properties for sale and succession planning opportunities
- Vancouver Island Economic Alliance provides valuable information on the economic environment on Vancouver Island through its annual State of the Island Report
- VIEA is also conducting a value-added forestry study aimed at identifying and networking value-added wood manufacturers in the region. The study highlights potential business case opportunities in value-added wood production on Vancouver Island.
- BC Export Navigator Program provides support to small businesses seeking assistance in developing new export markets.
Working with local government
Prospective businesses are encouraged to contact the following local government divisions with respect to business zoning and licensing in the Cowichan region:
Zoning and Development:
- CVRD Interactive Web Map
- CVRD Development Handbook
- CVRD Land Use Department
- North Cowichan Development Services Department
- Town of Ladysmith Business and Development
- Town of Lake Cowichan Land Matters Department
- City of Duncan Planning and Development
- Inter-municipal application
- City of Duncan
- Municipality of North Cowichan
- Town of Ladysmith
- Town of Lake Cowichan
Provincial resources for starting a new business
- Small Business BC provides businesses at every stage of development with products, services, and advice that will assist in their growth and sustainability.
- One Stop BC Business Registry provides valuable information and links on incorporating and registering your business.
- Community Futures Cowichan is a non-commercial lender that works to grow and support small and medium businesses in our region.
- Business Development Bank of Canada is a federal Crown Agency dedicated to assisting small and medium sized Canadian businesses through financing, advisory services and capital.
- Farm Credit Canada maintains an office in Cowichan that provides financial assistance and business supports to agricultural producers in the region.
- Women’s Enterprise Centre provides skills training, business loans, advice and mentoring and other resources to women entrepreneurs in British Columbia.
- Futurpreneur provides ﬁnancing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39.
- BC Employer Training Grant is an employer-driven, cost-sharing program that helps employers invest in training for their current or future employees. Visit the WorkBC website for more details, or contact ETG@gov.bc.ca.
- Cowichan Intercultural Society assists newcomers with finding and maintaining employment. Services provided include: employment readiness, insight into the labour market, comprehension of labour laws and culture in Canadian workplaces, as well as employment in the community. Call 250-748-3112 or email CIS at email@example.com for more information.
- ETHOS Career Management Group delivers a range of employment services through Work BC Employment Service Centre storefront locations in Duncan and Ladysmith, as well as a satellite office in Lake Cowichan. Resources can also be accessed online through this website and via E-Coaching.
- Duncan ESC: #301-80 Station Street | Phone 250.748.9880
- Ladysmith ESC: #1 – 740 First Avenue | Phone 250.924.2884
- Lake Cowichan: 121 Point Ideal Road | 250.749.6822
Commercial lenders and credit unions
RBC ROYAL BANK – Duncan
395 Trunk Rd
RBC ROYAL BANK – Mill Bay
2690 Mill Bay Rd
RBC ROYAL BANK – Ladysmith
527 1st Avenue
CIBC – Duncan
116 Station St
CIBC – Ladysmith
540 1st Avenue
CIBC – Chemainus
9760 Willow St
BMO – Duncan
21 Station St
BMO – Ladysmith
370 Trans Canada Hwy
SCOTIABANK – Duncan
435 Trunk Rd
TD CANADA TRUST – Duncan
351 Trans Canada Hwy, Unit #1
ISLAND SAVINGS CREDIT UNION – Duncan
14-250 Trunk Rd
ISLAND SAVINGS CREDIT UNION – Lake Cowichan
38 King George St S
ISLAND SAVINGS CREDIT UNION – Mill Bay
2720 Mill Bay Rd
ISLAND SAVINGS CREDIT UNION – Ladysmith
370 Trans Canada Hwy
ISLAND SAVINGS CREDIT UNION – Chemainus
3055 Oak St
COASTAL COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION – Duncan
471 Trans Canada Hwy, Unit #2
COASTAL COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION – Chemainus
9781 Willow St
COAST CAPITAL SAVINGS CREDIT UNION – Duncan
2749 Beverly St
LADYSMITH & DISTRICT CREDIT UNION – Ladysmith
330 1st Ave
LADYSMITH & DISTRICT CREDIT UNION – Ladysmith
101-12600 Trans Canada Hwy
Chamber of Commerce organizations
Cowichan’s Chamber of Commerce organizations are a great resource for finding out more about the business activity in the region or for participating in business advocacy, networking and professional development. Our local chambers also offer extensive member benefits through their affiliation with the BC Chamber of Commerce:
Business improvement associations
The circular economy is an economic system that eliminates pollution and waste by retaining resources and manufactured goods within the system through innovation, reuse and repair, redistribution, recondition, and recycling processes, all of which are powered by renewable energy. Transitioning from the current “take-make-waste” linear model to a circular economy reduces emissions, waste, and virgin resource demand while enabling affordable lifestyles and green job creation.
Circular Economy Accelerator Program
The Cowichan Valley Regional District has partnered with Vancouver Island Coast Economic Developers Association (VICEDA), Synergy Foundation, and communities across Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast to deliver Phase 1 of the Circular Economy Accelerator Program. Details may be found in the materials linked below.
As part of this program, a business resource guide was developed to support businesses who seek to adopt circular economy concepts into their operations, reduce waste and emissions, and develop innovative practices. It covers an overview of the circular economy, tangible and innovative business solutions, and resources for further learning.
For more Information visit the Circular Economy Accelerator Program Website.
VICEDA and Synergy Foundation are actively exploring opportunities for Phase 2 of the Circular Economy Accelerator Program. If you would like to participate in future phases of the program, please contact us.
The Government of Canada’s Cannabis Laws and Regulations portal provides information about cannabis, process of legalization, the cannabis act as it relates to provinces and territories, and driving laws.
The Government of Canada’s Cannabis Legalization and Regulation page provides information regarding the current state of laws and regulations.
Health Canada details the legislative powers that provinces and territories have in regulating cannabis activity.
Cowichan Valley Regional District – Electoral Areas – Cannabis Regulations
In conjunction with the federal government’s legalization of non-medical cannabis through the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), the Cowichan Valley Regional District has adopted a Cannabis Retail Store Policy and a Cannabis Production Facility Policy. Both of these policies discuss where both cannabis retail stores and cannabis production facilities can be located, as well as what is required in order to submit an application to the CVRD for consideration.
If you have questions related to the zoning and permitted uses of a property, please contact the CVRD Planning staff at 250.746.2620.
In BC all cannabis retailers must first obtain a Non-Medical Cannabis Retail License from the BC Government. The BC Government’s Non-Medical Cannabis Retail License page provides information related to the retail licencing process, including the online application portal.
The CVRD Cannabis Retail Store Policy outlines the requirements to apply for a retail license. Cannabis retail stores are permitted wherever “retail” is a principal permitted use in the applicable Zoning Bylaw for each Electoral Area, as well as in some Industrial zones.
For any interested parties wishing to pursue a retail license, please first confirm that the zoning for the property would permit this form of use. If you have questions related to the zoning and permitted uses of a property, please contact the CVRD Planning staff at 250-746-2588.
Health Canada is responsible for issuing licensing for cannabis cultivating, producing and packaging. Prior to any form of cannabis cultivation that exceeds the four plants for personal use allowance, a license from Health Canada is required. To apply for a cannabis cultivation, producing or packaging license visit Apply for a cannabis licence.
For more information on the different types of licensing and application requirements please review the Government of Canada’s Cannabis Licensing Application Guide.
The CVRD currently permits Cannabis production in the following zones. The CVRD Cannabis Production Facility Policy also outlines the process by which applications for zoning amendments to allow cannabis production facilities on land not currently zoned for this use will follow.
Cannabis in the Cowichan Valley
In June 2023, Craft Cannabis Association of BC and Economic Development Cowichan published a report providing a baseline from which to track the emerging legal cannabis industry in the region, as well as recommendations for supporting local businesses as they mature. Click here to view the Cannabis in the Cowichan Valley Report.
Cannabis and Agriculture
At the 2020 Islands Agriculture Show in Duncan, BC Cannabis presentations were given by Health Canada, BC Cannabis Legalization and Regulations Secretariat and the Cowichan Valley Regional District on Clearing the Smoke – What you Can and Cannot Do. As well, Sea Dog Farm presented on how they inexpensively added cannabis as an outdoor crop to financially support food production on their 5-acre farm in Sannichton, BC.
Cannabis Production in the ALR
The Agricultural Land Commission announced regulatory changes on May 8, 2019, which designated all forms of cannabis production as a permitted farm use. For properties located in the ARL, if the production of cannabis complies with the ALR regulations, local governments cannot prohibit this type of activity. The ALC Information Bulletin provides more details on the ALR cannabis regulatory changes. Refer to the CVRD Cannabis Production Facility Policy for location requirements.
Ladysmith Economic Development Strategy
In September 2018, the Ladysmith Economic Development Strategy was released, which brought forward 17 recommendations for supporting economic development in Ladysmith.
The strategy, authored by lead consultant and economist Jamie Vann Struth, is the result of a collaboration between the Town of Ladysmith, Stz’uminus First Nation, the Nanaimo Airport, the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association, and Community Futures Central Island. Economic Development Cowichan acted as project manager and is actively engaged with other partners in moving the project recommendations forward.
Cowichan Lake Region Hiking & Cycling Tourism Action Plan
In 2018, Community Futures Cowichan took the lead in bringing together the CVRD, the Town of Lake Cowichan, Ts’uubaa-asatx (Lake Cowichan) First Nations to create a Tourism Action Plan focused on hiking and cycling for the Cowichan Lake Region.
The now completed plan promotes collaboration in the business and community members and the creation of a more robust tourism identity for the Cowichan Lake region based on pumping up the volume on its acclaimed hiking and cycling assets. These actions aim at increasing the economic and social benefits of tourism.
The Cowichan Lake Region Hiking & Cycling Tourism Action Plan is available by clicking here.
Cowichan Industrial Land Use Strategy
In February 2018, Economic Development Cowichan released the Cowichan Industrial Land Use strategy, which creates a picture of the size, character and servicing requirements needed to match the coming demand for industrial land. This better positions the region for success.
To view the Cowichan Industrial Land Use Strategy click Here.
Cowichan Air Transport Feasibility Study
In October 2019, Economic Development Cowichan released the Cowichan Air Transport Feasibility Study, prepared by Dillon Consulting Limited, with the overall goal to determine if the development of an airport is a feasible endeavour. This study looks at and estimates the future demand for an airport, the potential revenues, the potential users and tenants, and the overall benefit to the community.
To view the Cowichan Air Transport Feasibility Study click here.
- Cowichan is home to approximately 700 farms. The majority of these farms are under 69 acres in size.
- Livestock, poultry and dairy production account for the largest number of farms in the region.
- Various microclimates within the Cowichan have high heat units for coastal areas and the region enjoys an average of 274 frost-free days a year.
- Of the 350,890 hectares of land within the Cowichan region, approximately 55,000 hectares is suitable for farming.
- Cowichan has a celebrated history in the dairy industry. The first dairy co-op, the Cowichan Creamery, formed in 1895 here.
- Niche products and specialty produce supplying new markets, including the craft beverage and culinary industries, are growing in popularity.
- A concerted move toward food security and fulfilling our requirements with local foods has given rise to farm operations dedicated to implementing sustainable practices.
- Various strategies and organizations support and promote the ‘food value chain’ in Cowichan. Community Supported Agriculture programs are popular throughout Cowichan.
Links to Agricultural Resources:
Cowichan Green Community Society (CGC) is a non-profit organization that has been focusing on environmental sustainability in the Cowichan Region since 2004. CGC’s mandate supports food security by developing strong relationships with local food producers, providing educational resources and increasing urban and rural food production.
CGC is also a hub for social innovation, community engagement and community building. The organization creates positive change through education, regenerative projects and celebration. A sampling of CGC’s current projects include the development of the Seed Incubator Farm in North Cowichan, the management of the Cow-Op Food Cooperative, the Garden Pantry Store and Ceres Edible Landscaping and the creation and distribution of the annual Buy Local! Buy Fresh! food map.
The Cowichan Agricultural Society and Farmers’ Institute (CAS) is a registered, non-profit society comprised of voluntary members and directors who live and farm in the Cowichan. The society strives to serve the needs of the local agricultural community by meeting monthly to identify and address issues of interest and concern to local farms, local farmers and agricultural stakeholders in the Cowichan Region. Members of the CAS also sit on committees in the wider community, advocating for farmers’ interests at the community, municipal, provincial and federal levels.
The Farmers Institute at Cobble Hill promotes rural life and the theories and practices of agriculture and creates public awareness of the role of agriculture in today’s society. The organization also manages the Farmers’ Institute Hall at Cobble Hill, a historically significant facility that was built in 1921. The institute also organizes the annual Cobble Hill Fair, which has been operating continuously since 1909.
The Cowichan Exhibition’s mandate is to encourage the cultivation of the soil, the breeding and finishing of improved livestock and the general development agricultural resources. The Cowichan Exhibition Society is a non-profit society that provides an annual community agricultural fair in addition to maintaining a year-round exhibition site that is home to multiple meeting room and exhibition facilities. On a bi-annual basis, the Cowichan Exhibition is home to the Islands Agriculture Show an Island-wide tradeshow and celebration of agriculture that also supports professional development opportunities for regional producers.
Bejay Mills, PAg.
BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food
- BC accounts for 49% of Canada’s production volume in aquaculture (Stats Canada 2013).
- Vancouver Island has a 37% share in finfish licenses and a 57% share in shellfish licenses in BC.
- Finfish and shellfish generate $472 million annually (VIEA 2016).
Provincial and local context:
- There is a growing demand for local, sustainable foods and knowledge of its origins. In 2015, BC led the nation in sales of most wild and farmed species of fish and shellfish. Islands Coastal Economic Trust indicates that recent technical improvements in the industry have created an opportunity for significant growth and the region is ready to capitalize on swelling worldwide demand for quality seafood.
- Cowichan has a long maritime history, with several communities, especially Ladysmith and Cowichan Bay, deriving a livelihood from the sea. In addition to traditional ocean fisheries, some operations are now adding innovative programs like Community Supported Fishery to augment the sustainability of our food supply.
- Cowichan is also home to two land-based operations that integrate aquaponics, an environmentally sustainable method of raising fish and hydroponics, a water-based environment for producing vegetables.
A small sampling of our aquaculture sector:
Blueroots Farm is a commercial aquaponics facility in the Cowichan. They have a large aquaponics greenhouse that provides an environmentally sensitive way to produce fresh, local, high quality greens, herbs and Steelhead trout all year round. It is their mission to help create a strong independent food system for the region. It is currently not in operation as the business model is being reassessed.
Located in Ladysmith, Limberis Seafood Processing LTD (LSPL) is North America’s foremost processing and purification facility for steamer clams, and is a world-renowned seafood distributor of North Cove brand Manila clams. The Limberis family has been proudly farming and processing the North Cove brand for 70 years from their hundreds of acres of shellfish tenures.
The Michelle Rose is a community-supported fishery that provides direct fair trade between fishermen and consumer. They work towards balancing nature, society and the economy by producing high quality seafood at prices that are fair to both members and fishermen, while working towards minimizing the carbon footprint.
Founded in 2012, Raincoast Aquaponics (RCA) is located on six acres in the rolling hills of the Cowichan Valley. Using Aquaponics technology, they have successfully been growing vegetables and raising fish for the past five years, supplying approximately 30,000 units of produce and 1,200 pounds of rainbow trout per year.
Construction and Design
- The construction sector is the leading employer in the Cowichan Region.
- Total building permits in 2016 increased by 14% to $132 million in the Cowichan Region (VICA, 2017).
- The Cowichan Region is home to 32 companies working in value-added wood production and design (VIEA 2017).
- Construction is a major economic driver on Vancouver Island, accounting for $1.85 billion in building permits last year. This is driven primarily by home construction and renovation, with residential building permits accounting for $1.4 billion of activity.
- 460 new residential units were introduced to the Cowichan Region in 2016. In 2017, the region is experiencing continued increases in residential building permits.
- In response to the growing economy and population base on Vancouver Island, there is an increased demand for residential, commercial and industrial infrastructure, which will continue driving growth in the construction sector.
- Cowichan boasts a diverse design sector with renowned artisans and designers working in locally sourced wood and stone.
A small sampling of our Construction and Design Sector
In 1969, Pacific Builders’ Supplies started manufacturing roof trusses, making them the oldest truss manufacturer on Vancouver Island. Twelve years later, Pacific Homes began offering a smart, fast and affordable way to build a home. A commitment to innovation, technological advances and computer-assisted design means that both Pacific Truss and Pacific Homes are industry leaders in their fields.
David Coulson has offered passionate and quality driven design/build services to Vancouver Island residents and business operators since 1989. David Coulson Design has particular expertise in heritage restoration and Built Green certified designs. This adds a special dimension for those interested in preserving heritage and making spaces that are economical and sustainable.
Matrix Marble and Stone came to Duncan in 1980 with a vision to bring marble and granite dimensional stone to Vancouver Island. They have grown into a full-service operation offering the largest selection of granite and marble on Vancouver Island.
The Ancient Art of Stone’s specialty is to consult, design and build functional art forms for private and public venues in the medium of stone. Every innovative piece is one of a kind, uniquely handcrafted and a work of art. Their products are sustainable and built to last, and the stones are frequently sourced from the mountains and valleys of Vancouver Island.
Canadian Bavarian Millwork and Lumber has built a reputation for quality and service during its 30 years in business. Located in Chemainus, the company specializes in high-end custom millwork, manufactured lumber and architectural products. It has taken innovative approaches to make its facilities more environmentally friendly and reduce its carbon footprint.
Cowichan Woodwork Ltd is a proud local business located in Cobble Hill. They specialize in custom millwork and cabinetry and their priority is always in the quality of their products. Cowichan Woodwork Ltd believes their work should contribute to a sustainable environment for all and ensure their practices reflect this. They are able to meet all green building and L.E.E.D.S parameters and prefer to use Forest Stewardship Council Certified products.
John Lore is the owner and founder of Live Edge Design in Duncan. He focuses on delivering a message of real world authenticity and quality. Live Edge Design follows a ‘whole tree ethos’ that means using as much of the tree as possible for its products. They salvage trees brought down by storms or left behind by forest companies, which provides rich contours and a sculptural quality to their furniture. The result is spectacular West Coast Natural furniture built to last for generations.
BC Marble Products, located in Chemainus, specializes in manufacturing products from a marble quarry located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Effingham Inlet area. Having access to their own supply of beautiful, west coast marble and advanced processing equipment, they can custom cut any product of any design or dimension. The micro-crystal grain of their product gives their marble a lustrous radiance that is unique and desirable, unlike any other.
Located in Lake Cowichan, South Shore Cabinetry is a family owned and operated business. Their management team has over 35 years of experience and their work has won numerous C.A.R.E. Awards for cabinetry design, construction, and installation excellence. Showrooms are located in Victoria and Lake Cowichan, B.C. South Shore Cabinetry is a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, and the Victoria Residential Builders Association. Watch our Changemaker video to find why South Shore Cabinetry identified Cowichan as the right place to expand.
Film Cowichan operates under the umbrella of Economic Development Cowichan and is the first stop for all film enquiries in the region.
Film Cowichan works in collaboration with the South Island Film Commission in Victoria, the North Island Film Commission (INFilm) in Campbell River, and Creative BC to attract film productions to the Island and to provide a seamless service for productions and commercials that are filming here.
Our activities include promotion of the Cowichan film locations, preparation of online location packages, assistance with scouting and permitting, liaising with local municipalities and business organizations and supporting local film initiatives. For assistance with filming in the region, please contact:
Tax Credits and Local Film Locations
The Cowichan region is eligible for a full range BC film tax credits. Visit the Creative BC website for tax credit incentive information.
An extensive library of Cowichan film locations is available on Creative BC’s Reel Scout website.
Cowichan Film Activity
Because of its proximity and easy access to major film centres in Vancouver and LA, Cowichan has become home to renowned independent film producers, technical crews and ancillary businesses that provide service to the film industry. The Vancouver-based digital animation company Bron Studios has a satellite office in Duncan employing nearly a dozen animators from around the world.
Recent filming includes an episode of the Amazing Race along with the major Hollywood film “Sonic the Hedgehog” in Ladysmith and the 2017 production “Light of My Life,” directed by Academy Award winning actor Casey Affleck. During the past decade, more than two dozen productions filmed here, accounting for more than $145 million in economic spin-offs for the region.
Did You Know?
- The ferry scenes in the ground-breaking 1970’s film “Five Easy Pieces” were shot on the Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay ferry linking Cowichan to Saanich, Vancouver Island
- The Hollywood blockbuster Godzilla was filmed locally
- 22 episodes of the television series “Spooksville” were shot in Cowichan
- Documentaries for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel have been made here
Forms for Filmmakers
Local and visiting producers filming in the Cowichan region are required to review and complete the following forms:
- Film Cowichan Film Guidelines
- CVRD Film Permit Application 2017
- Film Cowichan Resident Letter Template
- Film Cowichan Worksheet
- Film Cowichan Street Use Request Form
- In 2016, the forest sector was responsible for 36% ($13.9 billion) of BC’s total exports (BC Stats 2017).
- Forestry-related activities directly support over 7,000 businesses and provide 59,900 direct jobs in the province (BC Stats 2017).
- There are 57,910 million hectares in forested land in BC accounting for nearly 60% of the provincial land base (BC Stats 2017).
- Forestry is a major contributor to the Cowichan economy and is increasingly being defined by value-added processing and advanced manufacturing activities.
- 328,986 hectares of land are dedicated to forest and logging activities in the Cowichan Region.
- 1,475 jobs are directly dependent on forestry in the region.
- The District of North Cowichan’s 5,000 hectare municipal forest is managed to provide for recreational use and sustainable harvesting activities.
Our industry at a glance
- Catalyst Crofton Mill, a Paper Excellence Company, has two paper machines and a pulp operation employing more than 578 people in the Cowichan Region.
- Western Forest Products has mills and manufacturing operations in Chemainus, Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith, and Saltair.
- TimberWest has 325,400 hectares of private forest land on Vancouver Island and owns renewable Crown harvest rights to 700,000 m3 per year. TimberWest works with more than 100 local contractors to provide hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in Coastal British Columbia.
- Cowichan Lake Forest Co-op is a community-based cooperative dedicated to generating and sustaining employment in the forestry sector in the Lake Cowichan Region. In addition to managing a cooperative forest for the benefit of the region, the organization supports community initiatives in the Lake Cowichan area.
- Island Timberlands is a private timberlands business focused on the sustainable management of high quality timber and other forest products from coastal British Columbia.
Silviculture and Forest Management
- Iverson Forest Management Inc has been providing multi-phase harvest solutions for over 18 years on Vancouver Island. With their head office located in Duncan, IFMI offers a full range of Forest Engineering, Standing Stem harvesting, Property Management, and Fire Fighting Services.
- Khowutzun Forest Services is a partnership with Cowichan Tribes to provide Cowichan Tribe members the opportunity to engage in the forestry industry. KFS is a full service forestry company whose work reflects and enhances the cultural and environmental values of its membership.
- CoastFibre is an innovative, safe, and efficient logging company located in the Cowichan Region. The company specializes in hauling, steep slope harvesting, and road building for the forestry sector.
Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) has recently released a report on the value-added wood manufacturing sector. The study showcases the business case for developing new products on Vancouver Island and highlights the diversity of value-added producers that are locating here. The Cowichan Region is currently home to 32 value-added producers working in high-end furniture, cabinetry design, and other disciplines.
BC Forest Discovery Centre is a 100-acre, open air museum featuring forest and marsh trails and an operational railway in Duncan. The Centre collects and preserves artifacts relevant to coastal forestry, allowing visitors to explore the history of BC’s forest industry through exhibits and heritage buildings. The Centre offers a variety of workshops to educate the public about life, work, and the environment in forest communities of coastal BC. A recently launched fundraising campaign is aimed at creating an interactive, multi-media experience surrounding modern forestry practices at the BC Forest Discovery Centre.
- Retail is the largest employer by industry in the region with direct ties to tourism and hospitality.
- Cowichan’s unique, owner-operated stores set us apart from larger urban areas.
- Many of the region’s towns and villages feature small shops and retailers that attract clientele from Victoria and elsewhere on the Island.
- The region’s largest retail businesses include Home Depot, Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, Rona, Walmart, Superstore and other grocers such as Thrifty’s, Save On Foods and the independently-owned 49th Parallel and Country Grocer.
- Unique shopping extends to health and wellness products sourced or produced in Cowichan.
- For antique and vintage fans, the region offers antique malls and one-of-a-kind stores throughout the region.
A small sampling of our retail sector
Antique Addict is a cozy boutique in historic downtown Ladysmith owned by Paul Joy, an avid antique collector and furniture restorer. Antique Addict specializes in quality, affordable antique and vintage furniture that has been restored with care to give you years of enjoyment. It is Recycling At Its Finest!
Located in Mill Bay Centre, Bayside Goods is a new boutique featuring clothing, accessories and lifestyle for men and women. All the top brands you love in a bright, modern space.
Visit Beachology on the waterfront in Cowichan Bay for unique beach-inspired furniture, home décor, jewelry and apparel, as well as gifts. Beachology also offers styling services and colour consultations for waterfront properties, vacation homes, boutique hotels and anyone who wants to bring the beach into their home.
Stop into Beyond the Usual, in historic downtown Chemainus, and check out clothing, footwear and accessories for the active surf and skate lifestyle catering to old and young alike, inspiring you to get outdoors.
Cardino Shoes opened in 1999 in Duncan and has grown into “the” destination shoe store on Vancouver Island. Cardino’s has become renowned for its fashionable European styled shoes, bags and leather goods. They believe fashion must be functional and practical as well as beautiful and exciting.
Founded as Village Market in 1986 by Pete and Jo-Anne Pimlott, the full-service Lake Cowichan Country Grocer is a hub for the bustling community. It features a floral department, lottery counter, bakery, deli, health foods department and roomy café with wireless internet. Country Grocer is an avid supporter of special events in the Lake Cowichan area.
More than a store, Cowichan Valley Running is a community where every level of runner is welcome. Located in Mill Bay, visit the shop for the best gear and tips on where to run the Cowichan region.
in the heart of downtown Duncan, at Fabrications you’ll find European-inspired clothing that combines quality, comfort and just the right fashion edge.
Koksilah Acres is a locally owned alpaca farm which produces Canadian made alpaca products. Everything from rovings, yarn, socks to sweaters are available.
Lise Brown Cosmetics in Duncan is a family-owned Canadian manufacturer of natural organic skin care and ultra clean mineral cosmetics. They are constantly striving to bring the best, most innovative products to customers while being committed to developing relationships with clients.
Potting since the early 70s, Mary Fox’s pottery continues to push the boundaries of creativity, delighting clients with her interesting forms and trademark glazes. Come and visit Mary Fox’s pottery studio, located in Ladysmith, to explore her work which has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith is renowned for its award-winning cinnamon buns, selling over 45 dozen on a busy day. An important part of their operation is to support local artists by displaying local art.
For over 20 years, Patryka Designs has been one of Mill Bay’s best known women’s clothing stores. Patryka Designs provides an exciting product mix creating a boutique-like shop that features the fusion of Mediterranean décor and Vancouver Island cultures. They offer an incredible range of fashions handpicked by owner Patricia Jeffs and her knowledgeable staff of fashion consultants.
Nestled in Cobble Hill, Prima Strada is passionate for the fire-roasted pizzas born in Naples, Italy. They pay homage to their Italian roots with a commitment to simple, fresh ingredients on traditional wood-fired, thin-crust pizza. Warm, intimate and casual, join them for wood-fired pizza, house-made gelato, a local beer or glass of wine.
Resthouse Sleep Solutions is a locally-owned and operated sleep shop, located in the heart of Duncan. They offer customized solutions for all individuals. Natural and organic latex mattresses, toppers, pillows, body pillows and linens. They want to help you sleep better.
Shawnigan House is a community-driven coffee and chocolate shop that strives to promote all of the fantastic local products, events and people they’ve discovered in the Cowichan Region. Their walls are filled with local art, and they use locally roasted, fair trade coffee beans, Cowichan Region farmed teas and serve in-house chocolate treats. The business is conveniently co-located with Oma’s Bakery and Market on the main thoroughfare in Shawnigan Lake Village.
Sheer Essentials Lingerie offers one of the largest bra and swim selections on Vancouver Island. Carrying “AA-M” Cup. There are certified fitters on hand trained specifically to find your perfect fit.
Downtown Duncan’s happy place. Toys available in every price range, The Red Balloon Toy Shop has something for every child and child at heart.
The Worldly Gourmet Kitchen Store in Ladysmith is a Canadian and International destination visited by thousands of locals and tourists. They provide access to exceptional European and North American products and offer cooking classes with guest chefs.
True Grain Bread opened its doors in April 2004 in the seaside village of Cowichan Bay. In 2009, Cowichan Bay was designated North America’s first Cittaslow community, and True Grain Bread played a pivotal role in making this happen. The True Grain Bread bakers continue the tradition of old-world style baking: early morning mixing of dough from freshly milled organic ingredients, hand-scaling and carefully forming each individual loaf.
Operating in the Cowichan since 2003, Westholme Tea Farm is Canada’s first tea farm, showcasing the unique terroir of the region. There are over 100 organic, non-blended estate grown organic teas, as well as a wide variety of creative tea and tisane blends, made on the farm. Westholme believes in small scale organic and biodynamic tea farming using only the finest ingredients in their artisan blends. Westholme offers a tearoom and garden patio to sit, relax and discover the joy of tea.
Traditionally blended, aged and bottled by hand, beautiful, location inspired, all natural, artisan perfumes. Each incorporate a wild harvested element, to create authentically local fragrances. Located in the seaside village of Cowichan Bay.
49th Parallel Grocery has been a Vancouver Island community grocer since 1977. The stores are owned and operated by Wayne and Harmina Richmond, who purchased the first 49th Parallel Grocery store in Ladysmith in 1977 and have since expanded with three locations in the Cowichan (Duncan, Ladysmith, and Chemainus). The 49th is a family business that works hard to be a big part of the local community. They actively support local non-profit groups, schools and kids programs. At the 49th, you can always expect top quality products, unparalleled service and a friendly shopping atmosphere.
- Technology employs more than 101,000 people in BC and is one of the fastest growing sectors in the province.
- BC has the third-largest tech workforce in Canada.
- More than 100 tech companies from new start-ups to digital animation companies make their home in the Cowichan.
- The Cowichan Region is less than an hour away from the largest West Coast technology sectors in Vancouver and Victoria.
- Economic Development Cowichan has embarked on a tech strategy aimed at supporting existing companies in the region and attracting new growth.
The Cowichan Tech Strategy
- In 2017, Economic Development Cowichan working with consultants from Goss Gilroy Inc. released a development strategy for the Cowichan tech sector.
- The report includes an overview of the sector, plans for future development and indicators to track progress.
- You can read the full report here
Tech Island – The best climate for growing your ideas
- Economic Development Cowichan partnered with Vancouver Island Coast Economic Developers Association and other communities across the island to create TechIsland.io, a website to encourage investment in the region’s technology sector.
- Find out why you should locate your tech business in Cowichan at TechIsland.io.
Cowichan Internet & Cellular Connectivity Strategy
- In 2022-2023, Economic Development Cowichan working with consultants from IBI Group released a strategy for addressing gaps in internet and cellular connectivity in the region.
- The report includes a review of the current state of infrastructure and services, the results of extensive engagement activities, and recommendations for achieving our collective vision for the future of connectivity.
- The project resulted in both a Regional Connectivity Strategy and four Community Connectivity Plans for our most underserved areas:
- Thetis and Penelakut Islands
- Cowichan Station
- Ditidaht First Nation
- Cowichan Lake Region
- Download the full report here.
A small sampling of our tech sector
Every year, the global dairy industry loses more than $10 billion worth of production because of undetected and untreated udder infections. Family farms and farmers with small herds are particularly affected by these infections. EIO’s solution detects these infections sooner than any other approach currently on the market. Using a technique known as multispectral imaging, udder abnormalities are spotted as they form. This gives farmers the ability to identify animals affected by harmful pathogens. Being able to identify infection gives farmers an effective tool for increasing herd health and minimizing production losses.
EOMNI provides accounting software for property management and real estate companies. They are in the process of introducing AI into their products, and they specialize in integrating systems that are not normally compatible.
“Nuts’amat Shqwaluwun” means “Working together with one heart and one mind.” This traditional value is at the center of the Mustimuhw Solutions. The two core products, the Mustimuhw community electronic medical record (cEMR) and the Mustimuhw Child and Family Services Case Management System (CFS-BP), are electronic solutions that seek to integrate community members, families, service providers and technology in delivering care with one heart and one mind. MUSTIMUHW (pronounced Moose tee mook) is a Coast Salish word meaning “all of the people”. It was selected by Cowichan Tribes Elders as the name for the community electronic medical record.
Incorporated in 1997 in the United Kingdom to develop imaging and PDF format related software, Tracker Software Products has offices internationally. It transferred its corporate headquarters to Cowichan in 2008 to continue the development new applications and developer toolkits.
- Tourism numbers on Vancouver Island have been increasing since 2012, with 2016 seeing unprecedented growth. The tourism sector provides over 20,000 jobs on the Island (BC Stats).
- In the Cowichan, the tourism industry directly provides 2,845 jobs, which is 7.5% of the total employment in the region (Stats Canada 2016).
- Visitors come to Cowichan to enjoy a lifestyle that celebrates locally sourced food, wine, and spirits. Add a vibrant arts and cultural scene and phenomenal hiking, cycling, and marine sport experiences, and it is easy to see why the region is becoming a multi-day destination.
- Leadership for destination marketing within Cowichan’s tourism sector is provided by Tourism Cowichan Society, an industry-led marketing organization led by of tourism business operators.
- Tourism Vancouver Island is a not-for-profit association that provides over $1.5 million in advertising and promotional campaigns to support tourism stakeholders throughout Vancouver Island and to drive tourism to the region.
Evidence of a growing tourism sector
- BC Ferries Vancouver Island routes are up 4% for foot traffic and 6% for vehicle traffic from 2015 and are still experiencing growth into 2017 according to the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA)
- Passenger volumes at regional airports are experiencing a 5.2% increase in comparison to the same period in 2016 (VIEA)
- Cowichan has a strong representation of bed and breakfast accommodations and there is still opportunity to develop hotel and motel properties in the region.
- Microtel is a recent example of new hotel development in the Cowichan region. Oyster Bay Development, in partnership with Stz’uminus First Nation, has undertaken the development of a 65-acre site that is serving as an attractive residential, commercial, recreational and tourism hub for the region. The development includes an 81-unit Microtel Inn & Suites hotel by Wyndham that opened in spring 2018. The hotel supports a variety of suite options that can accommodate business and leisure guests.
- Best Western Cowichan Valley Inn underwent an award winning renovation in 2018. The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIRB) named it best in the renovation category. The hotel underwent a 4 million dollar makeover, refurbished 42 rooms and added an additional floor to boost the building to 64 rooms in total.
Wine, Craft Beer, Cider, and Distilleries
- The Cowichan has more than 16 wineries, from small boutique operations to large-scale producers, and the region is home to Canada’s first estate cidery
- New legislation and regulations in BC make it easier to produce, warehouse and distribute distilled products
- Since the first commercial vineyard was planted in the 1970’s, the region has grown to become the heart of Vancouver Island’s Wine Country and a world-renowned wine region.
- There are a number of internationally awarded and recognized wines produced in throughout the Cowichan.
- The Cowichan predictable Mediterranean climate is well-suited for production of high quality wines.
- Currently, more than 250 acres are under cultivation by the major wineries.
Craft Breweries and Distilleries
- Growth of craft breweries is being seen across Vancouver Island. Cowichan region is include in BCs ale trail.
- There is a strong west-coast focus on the local, fresh, craft beer movement, which has been promoted through local events such as Cowichan on Tap and the Cowichan Craft Beer and Food Fest.
- One of our local breweries, Red Arrow, has initiated a program to have local residents begin growing hops to use in their beer instead of importing this ingredient.
- There are three distilleries currently located in the Cowichan that all have a strong focus on using sustainable practices and sourcing local ingredients in their production.
The Cowichan Wine, Craft Brewery, Cider and Distillery Report
- In January 2019, Economic Development Cowichan released a report for the Cowichan beverage industry.
- The report includes an overview of each of the sectors, including snapshots of all the local establishments, the opportunities and challenges that were identified during the study process, and recommendations for moving forward.
- You can read the full report here.
Learn more about local Cowichan beverage and culinary providers through Tourism Cowichan.
Essential Links for Recovery
The current COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. To keep organizations up-to-date and informed, Economic Development Cowichan (EDC) has compiled the following resources:
- Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
Support for businesses.
- Small Business BC COVID-19 Support Service
Connecting businesses with the resources, and guidance necessary to navigate challenges from COVID-19.
- Vancouver Island Coastal Tourism Resiliency Program
As part of the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, this program provides Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast tourism businesses with meaningful, hands-on guidance and support to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, adapt and work towards long-term resiliency.
COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard and Business Surveys
Cowichan Regional Recovery Dashboard
To help inform and guide the recovery efforts of local government, community organizations, businesses, and others, Economic Development Cowichan published a quarterly dashboard of indicators to track the region’s status and progress towards recovery.
These reports have now been replaced with a broader State of the Cowichan Economy report, published twice yearly.
Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) Surveys
EDC and community partners conducted a series of surveys that assessed the progress of economic recovery within the regional district. The results generated a Cowichan-specific snapshot that were used to:
• Identify local business needs at a point in time
• Feed into regional economic recovery planning processes
• Allow the CVRD to lobby the Provincial Government on behalf of Cowichan businesses
• Provide data to support the work of local economic development organizations
Results From Survey #2
Survey #2 Dates: August 5 to 19, 2020
Results Published: September 1, 2020
Number of Responses: 101
The Cowichan economy has experienced a modest improvement since the first survey conducted in May, yet suggests we should not expect to recover to pre-COVID-19 employment and business levels in the foreseeable future. The services sector has been hardest hit, particularly businesses heavily reliant on tourism.
Businesses are responding to the crisis with increased sanitation protocols and reduced operations, while struggling with consumer confidence. Yet, many businesses are innovating, particularly in terms of seeking to engage more in the digital economy, but also with the introduction of new products and services.
Please find more detailed results here.
Results From Survey #1
Survey #1 Dates: May 19 to 27, 2020
Results Published: June 16, 2020
Number of Responses: 70
Please find more detailed results here.