Nanaimo has transitioned from a commodity-based economy that traditionally relied on an abundance of natural resources from the ocean and forests towards a service-based “knowledge” economy that relies on the skills, talent and innovation
of the local workforce. The area offers a diversified economic base of 6,459 businesses operating within the City of Nanaimo. In 2023 Nanaimo’s largest sectors by number of businesses are Construction (17.7%), Professional Scientific & Technical
(11.4%), Retail Trade (11.5%),Other Services except Public Administration (10.1%) and Healthcare/Social Assistance (10.7%). These top five industry sectors account for 61% of all business licenses.
As with Canadian business composition, the majority of the businesses in Nanaimo are small to medium sized enterprises. The City of Nanaimo had 3,434 businesses with employees in 2021. Approximately 87% (2,993) of these businesses have between 1 and 19
employees; 9% (288) of the businesses have between 20-49 employees; 4% (149) of these businesses have between 50-499 employees and 4 businesses have more than 500 employees. Nanaimo’s largest sectors by employment are: Healthcare and Social
Assistance, Retail Trade, Construction, Accommodation & Food Services and Educational Services (2016 Census).