Bridging Our Pacific Coast Neighbors

As Pacific coast neighbors, California and British Columbia embrace both an outlook for new ideas and an appetite for innovation. To their respective countrymen in the rest of their nations, these innovative regions are viewed with a sense of pride and curiosity as wellsprings of new trends, ideas and tastes. They also have the best waves for surfing.

Both regions are national gateways to lands across the Pacific and stand as their countries’ first port of welcome to immigrants across Asia. Each is richly endowed with natural beauty and natural resources – one even laying claim to a ‘Super, Natural’ standard of beauty in a longstanding advertising campaign. And both have been key destinations in the growth of their nations, one famously by rail where the last spike was laid, and the other by a passionate quest to discover the West. Today each is a global destination where the world gathers to explore, innovate and connect.

While in some ways they share parallel journeys, Southern California and BC are also fans of each other. In fact, Southern California represents the largest source of overnight visitors to BC from the U.S. The affection goes both ways of course, as Canadians are a major source of tourism for Los Angeles and all of Southern California. There are as many as 230 flights a week between Vancouver and Southern California making Southern California the largest air travel market between Vancouver and the US. It is easy to forget sometimes how close we really are. Our flight on Air Canada from LAX to Vancouver was less than 3 hours. That is closer than traveling from LA to Austin.

We compete with each other too. Southern California, the world’s capital of entertainment, has a northern neighbor who is in its own right a major place for television and movies. In fact, Vancouver is the third-largest film development center.

Technology is one of the newest points of interaction. Just as California is synonymous with “tech”, BC continues to transform its resource-rich economy to promote new sources of growth including a significant tech sector that the province is celebrating this week with the annual BC Tech Summit. MAPLE will be there.

There is, of course, a longstanding trade relationship between BC and California too. The trade data indicates that California's top buys are electrical energy, fresh fish, particleboard, lumber and unwrought zinc. In fact, California ranks second among all states for BC exports. And California is a major exporter to Canada of produce, grape wines, nuts and petroleum oils. In 2016, merchandise trade between BC and all of California was US $4.4 billion.

MAPLE is making our first mission to British Columbia in our second year since founding our Canada-Southern California business council. We are visiting leading organizations in the province to learn more about the state and trends in overall trade, attracting international head offices to Vancouver, film and the creative arts, wireless and IOT, the tech sector at large, how emerging companies can access the capital markets and graduate-level education innovation. While our week in Vancouver is our third mission since founding MAPLE 22 months ago, this is our first delegation mission. We are delighted to be joined by several MAPLE member organizations representing logistics, corporate, securities and immigration law who share our interest in taking the pulse of Vancouver.

 Our trip will be capped by our sold-out cross-border reception sponsored by Air Canada and Snell & Wilmer LLP where the MAPLE delegates and area executives, entrepreneurs, investors and educators will get to know each other better.

At MAPLE, we are bridge builders at our core. Connecting people and ideas together to promote opportunities in cross-border investment, trade and entrepreneurship. This week perhaps we should call it “Lions Gating” in honor of one of Vancouver’s iconic bridges. That would surely be Super, Natural.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit