Two years ago, a gathering of municipal officials and branding committee members popped open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the birth of Squamish’s new tagline – Hardwired for Adventure.
The branding incorporated the feel of Squamish’s emerging recreation technology sector, then team member Jeff Cooke said at the unveiling. While people and businesses move to Squamish because of its world-class sporting opportunities only minutes from their front doors, municipal officials and the community have to ensure the experience Squamish promises matches “what we put on the menu,” Cooke said.
Few at that gathering could have imagined the boom in growth Squamish was about to experience. The Sea to Sky Gondola had just opened five months earlier, leading residents and officials to speculate as to what kind of opportunities would follow in its footsteps.
Around the same time Tyler Jordan and a group of friends were gearing up for a business venture of their own. They were commuting to North Vancouver, when they decided it was time to start their own cycling apparel company, 7Mesh Inc., in Squamish.
“We now have dealers in 12 countries,” says Jordan, 7Mesh’s president. “It is still in the early days, but so far things are good.”
Jordan is often asked what lured him to open his rec tech company in Squamish. The question itself is somewhat backward, he explains. Like many people who call this community home, it is the outdoor lifestyle that grabs him and keeps him here. Jordan and his friends set out to create a business in their hometown and Squamish’s surroundings helped shape it.
“It was kind of funny. We thought if we are going to create a company, it’s going to be in Squamish. From there we went on to ask ‘what type of business are we going to be?’” he says, noting the biking realm was a natural fit.
For the founders of award-winning adventure filmmakers Anthill Films, their story follows the same line. Half of its original four-member team lived in Squamish and the other two virtually live in the corridor community, spending the majority of their time on local bike routes.
“This is where we bought houses,” Anthill partner and executive producer Ian Dunn says. “Squamish has the lifestyle that appealed to us. It wasn’t about locating a business here; it was about locating our lives here.”
The role of government is to get talent and entrepreneurs interested and moving to the community, Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman says. Heintzman sat on council when the 55 branding recommendations were rolled out. Today she says Squamish is reaching that critical mass to start seeing the true potential of that vision come to life.
“You are starting to see us hit that stride in having the ‘bench strength’ within that demographic,” she says. “There are so many things being built within the next six months to a year.”
Today, Squamish can call itself home of international biking website Pinkbike, active wear Blurr and recently, snowboard manufacture KNWN. It also serves as a base for sale representatives for climbing and mountain biking equipment producers from Black Diamond, Five Ten and Prana.
Squamish doesn’t offer the resources found in the Lower Mainland both Jordan and Dunn agree, but there are benefits to starting up in a smaller community. There are more opportunities for partnerships and joint ventures between local companies, Jordan says. And then there’s the ample testing ground the outdoor playground offers.
“Squamish serves as a badge of authenticity,” Jordan says.
If the district and residents want to see the rec tech industry continue to grow, the community has to protect what is drawing people here in the first place – its world-class outdoor recreation venues, both entrepreneurs say.
“We can’t take it for granted,” Dunn says.