“Halifax, a global leader in the knowledge-based ocean economy, is home to Canada’s ocean supercluster as well as leading institutions in the domain of offshore energy, aquaculture and ocean research. With direct and easy air access from both Europe and the US, a new state-of-the-art convention centre, plenty of hotels and a culturally vibrant city, many international organisations have chosen Halifax to host their conferences.” – Ross Jefferson
Halifax, capital of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, is a major economic centre with a large concentration of government services and private sector companies. Major employers and economic generators include the Department of National Defence, the Halifax Shipyard and the Port of Halifax, as well as major universities. Halifax serves as the business, banking, government and cultural centre for the Maritime region. From July 2019 to June 2020 the population of Halifax grew to a total of 448,544. International immigration was the main driver, accounting for 64% of the growth. Halifax continues to attract young families and early-career professionals. The city is home to a vibrant arts and culture community that enjoys considerable support and participation from the general population.
Given the enormous impact the pandemic had on the movement of people in 2020, a sharp drop in population growth might have been expected. However, Halifax experienced strong growth with eighty-one per cent of Halifax’s population growth coming from outside Nova Scotia.
Halifax is famed for the quality of several of its neighbourhoods. It is also known for its high walkability, particularly on the Halifax Peninsula where 1 in 3 residents regularly walk to work. The city has also placed increased emphasis on developing bicycling infrastructure.
Halifax’s geographical location positions it strategically between major North American, European, and Asian markets, making it an excellent location for moving goods in and out of North America and travelling to and from international destinations – by road, rail, air and sea.
Meanwhile, agriculture, fishing, mining, forestry and natural gas extraction are major resource industries found in the rural areas of the municipality. Clay, shale, gold, limestone, and gypsum extraction also contributes to a mixed economy.
Despite a recent net loss of 1100 jobs in the goods-producing sector, the oceans sector in Nova Scotia employs roughly 34,800 workers across the province and contributes $4.5bn, or roughly 12% of provincial GDP. As a consequence, Halifax has a depth of specialisation in the Ocean Sector – naval architecture, naval shipbuilding, oceanography, tidal energy and more.
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster is an industry-led partnership with government, small-to-large sized companies, and innovators from across ocean sectors who are committed to collaborative research and development, driving economic growth, and positioning Canada as a leader in the global ocean economy. The ambition of the Ocean Supercluster is to create high-value jobs, invest in high-impact projects, and bolster the performance of Canada’s ocean industries by accelerating the adoption of new technologies and fostering connectivity between companies and innovators. The city is home to collaborative hubs and incubators dedicated entirely to the ocean sector, such as COVE (Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship). Halifax also houses the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada’s largest centre for oceans research, with 600 scientists, engineers and technicians.
Boat and shipbuilding contribute extensively to the economy, constructing everything from tankers and warships, through companies like Irving Shipbuilding, to the latest generation of manned and unmanned submersible vehicles from companies like Riptide. They, in turn, generate a large ecosystem of supporting organisations and research institutions. Despite the ocean domination, the skies aren’t forgotten; Aerotech Business Park sits opposite Halifax International Airport, uniting companies that service the aviation sector. There’s support for entrepreneurs and start-ups from Innovacorp, Nova Scotia’s early-stage venture capital organisation – ‘that strive to change the world’ – scale and accelerate. Their focus is on tech, life sciences, clean tech, and ocean tech, with a commitment to make the region one of the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world.
The need to balance business with the environment is also evident with companies like Dartmouth (eastern shore of Halifax harbour)-based Sustainable Blue which has constructed an innovative land-based, saltwater grow-out facility, enabling the production of farmed Atlantic salmon year-round without negative environmental and health impacts. Meanwhile, Perennia, a not-for-profit crown corporation, offers farmers, fishermen and food processors expertise in research, marketing and product development for products from the food sector, using waste streams and raw ingredients.
Halifax houses several universities, of which Dalhousie is the largest with 18,000 students. The Scientist magazine rated the university among the top five places in the world outside the United States for post-doctoral work and conducting scientific research. Not surprisingly, marine research has become a large focus of the university and Dalhousie is the headquarters of the Ocean Tracking Network, a research effort using implanted acoustic transmitters to study fish migration patterns. The university was also one of the founding members of the Halifax Marine Research Institute, designed to help increase the scale, quality, internationalisation and impact of marine research in the region. And if you haven’t been there, you’ll still recognise it as the campus is a popular backdrop for film-makers.
And, for the all-important national and international delegates, the Halifax Convention Centre comprises over 120,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and is part of the $500m Nova Centre project. With 93,000sqm of office, residential, and hotel space, Nova Centre is the largest integrated development project undertaken in Nova Scotia’s history. And it is just 30 minutes from the Centre to the airport. A range of national and international flights are offered, and the airport is an award winner in its own right. It has twice been best airport in the Americas, as well as the best airport (less than 5 million passengers). It seems Halifax gives visitors a first class welcome right from the start.