The solution lies in several interwoven parts:
1. Make the necessary land-use decisions. To meet the Metro Vancouver 2040 Regional Plan (2010) and the targets Maple Ridge committed to, we must dedicate 200 additional acres in land for employment.
2. Reduce regulatory barriers and streamline the processes people now see as onerous.
3. Zone reasonably and flexibly. While taking into consideration the multiple competing needs of our community we must consider every possible solution from relaxing and streamlining the currently restrictive and inconsistent home-based business regulations to allowing for less restrictive commercial zoning.
4. Provide excellent customer service with a positive “can-do” attitude that will let businesses know that Maple Ridge is open for investment.
5. Review the processes and practices of our Economic Development Office. The current framework of this office does not serve our city well. We need it to be independent from excessive bureaucratic involvement yet, at the same time, be accountable by reporting to a board, comprised of community members, from all walks of life. This will help serve the interests of Maple Ridge’s local economy as well as enhance economic development. This board, conceived as the Economic Development Corporation, would then report to City Council.
6. Implement the employment incentive program I conceived of and had approved of by Council in principle more than a year ago. Currently, the industrial commercial review isn’t complete. Consequently; the incentive program is stalled as we don’t know the final outcomes of this review. Thus, we need to focus on getting this review complete!
Currently, one of the recommendations by Paul Rollo’s Industrial Commercial Review (2012) that I strongly support, is to pursue advanced manufacturing in Maple Ridge. As this industry is not population-dependent (unlike the service industry) there is greater flexibility in location. Thus, the terms of agreement, including incentive programs such as I have devised, become influencing factors in determining the community a company chooses to locate within. I see this as a prudent way to improve our tax base ratio in a relatively short time period and to provide local employment as well.
7. Diversify the sources of income in our community. This should happen in both public and private sector. For local government, the obvious result would be to provide our city with varied and new sources of income. This would decrease our reliance on residential property taxes. For the private sector the same theory applies. Building a strong, resilient, and diversified economy will help the community to survive economic downturns. As they say, it is never wise to put all your eggs in one basket – so lets establish more egg baskets!
Implementing the above will open our city up to much-needed investment that will increase local employment; more equally distribute the tax base between residential and commercial; and result in a stronger local economy.