Politicians and chamber of commerce members took to pounding the pavement last week to take the civic pulse and learn what makes business tick in Maple Ridge.
Between 60 to 70 businesses were contacted when groups of three or four knocked on doors in the Maple Meadows Industrial Park on July 27.
Once they connected with business managers, those were given a short survey asking questions such as what they most liked about being located in the area; what was the biggest challenge they faced; and what could be done to help them along.
People were impressed that the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce, along with the City of Maple Ridge, would make the effort, said chamber president Michael Morden.
Two of the most common complaints concerned dealings with city hall, in particular, with building permits and bylaws.
“That was half of the complaints,” Morden said.
Businesses complained it took long to get building permits or approvals and doing so wasn’t always the most pleasant experience.
Society has become so based on policy and regulations that people’s needs are left along the way, he added.
One example of the type of demands made by city occurred when one business took over the premises of another.
The incoming business had to make improvements to the premises, even though the use of the building hadn’t changed.
Another business had its sandwich board summarily removed from the sidewalk in front of its premises by city staff.
“There’s room for improvement,” said Morden.
Politicians were also part of the survey, with Maple Ridge councillors Bob Masse, Corissa Bell, Gordy Robson and Mayor Nicole Read, along with MP Dan Ruimy also asking questions.
Chamber staff and city economic development staff are now in the process of collating the results and will present a report later to council.
It was the first time Maple Ridge has had a business walk, said Lino Siracusa, manager of economic development with the City of Maple Ridge.
His group included the mayor and the MP and they visited Chrislan Ceramics, which makes the tap handles that are used to pour beer in bars, along with Pitt Meadows Plumbing, Mircom Engineered Systems, which makes fire alarms and a cabinet manufacturer.
“All of them were talking about growth,” Siracusa said.
Two prevalent issues businesses are facing are lack of room to expand and a shortage of skilled labour.
The city will try to help businesses try to re-configure their premises to provide more room to address the first, he added.
Regarding the issue of finding the right workers to keep the business running: “There’s an inability to find skilled labour.”
Siracusa added that Kanaka Business Park, on north 256th Street, was also beginning to fill up, with only six lots remaining to be sold.
But many businesses are using that property for storage.
“I’m not sure we’re going to see a lot of jobs up there yet.”