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Maple Ridge needs 400 hectares of commercial and industrial land

City council endorses an updated economic development strategy
From the City of Maple Ridge’s economic development strategy, which was approved in December.

Adding 400 hectares of commercial and industrial land, with more residents able to work in their city are key goals in the new economic development strategy endorsed by city council.

Consultant Chris Fields of Rynic presented the strategy in the last council meeting of 2021, and highlighted a pair of key performance indicators. One would address a shortfall of 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of employment lands. It’s been a longstanding issue over multiple councils.

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Fields said the city needs to increase the the non-residential tax base to 13.5 per cent, which is the average across the Metro region, up from it’s current nine per cent. He called Maple Ridge’s low commercial/industrial tax base “a very significant divergence,” from the rest of the Lower Mainland cities.

He said the city will need to address this issue over decades.

“It’s not about securing it tomorrow, but over the next 30 years, in the methodical seeking and development of industrial land in good locations with ease of transportation access,” said Fields.

Another performance indicator will be having 40 per cent of residents able to work in their home community, up from the current 33 per cent. The strategy notes more people working in their city has numerous benefits, including job creation, spending multipliers, social benefits such as increased volunteerism, and lower carbon emissions.

The strategy calls for the accelerated implementation of the Town Centre Area Plan, and downtown enhancement, as the “soul” and “heartbeat” of local commerce. It said downtown enhancement is the number one priority.

The strategy seeks to build on a proportionately larger manufacturing sector by employment than is typical in Metro. The sector is led by wood product, pharmaceuticals, and electronics but is diverse – including metal fabrication, boat-building, food products, and furniture.

Coun. Gordy Robson said when economic development office started, growth was found to be in retention and expansion of existing businesses, and wanted to ensure there is an exit interview with business owners who don’t renew their business licence, to determine why they went out of business.

Coun. Ahmed Yousef said the strategy wants for more “specifics” and “meat.”

“It leaves me wanting more,” he said.

Mayor Mike Morden said there will be more detail in future, and the strategy is a long-term, high-level look.

READ ALSO: City of Maple Ridge continues the hunt for new industrial land

City economic development director Wendy Dupley said the work has been done over nine months after focus groups, committees, board meetings and online summit attended by 30 people. There were also three surveys.

A city press release sad the strategy is a top priority for council, and highlights employment growth, new investments, non-residential development, support for entrepreneurs, the establishment of a post-secondary presence in our community and the acceleration of the redevelopment of the town centre, said a press release from city hall. The strategy will not only focus on designating industrial lands, but also the enriched use of commercial spaces and neighbourhood business nodes.

“Maple Ridge is filled with innovative entrepreneurs and talented skilled workers, with far too many leaving our community each day to work in other areas.” said Mayor Mike Morden. “Council is taking active steps to diversify our local economy and tax base, and to reduce our carbon footprint as a community. Over time, there will be viable options to live and work close to home.

“While the land designation may be ‘industrial’ use, the reality is that modern manufacturing businesses are not the ‘smokestack’ businesses of the past. Working in alignment with the regional 2050 Plan, quality of life is improved for our citizens, businesses, and builds a better complete community for our future generations.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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