$107 million is the estimated annual retail spending leakage that occurs in Maple Ridge (Paul Rollo, Commercial Industrial strategy, 2012). That is $293,151, each and every day, spent outside our community by citizens of Maple Ridge! Clearly shopping matters. Citizens tell me they can’t buy the items they need or want in their own town – this has to change!
To stop this retail leakage, city council must facilitate viable shopping options for our community that are relevant and that will survive the changes we are currently seeing in the retail sector.
First, Maple Ridge must provide a welcoming atmosphere for retail and commercial business. In doing so, we must be cognizant of the changing retail landscape. Recently, a number of big box retailers have closed citing lack of profitability. Therefore, we must ensure that the retail businesses we attract to Maple Ridge will first serve our community and by doing so will survive and flourish.
I see smaller locations, populated with a variety of shops, oriented towards the real needs and wants of our citizens, as popular in Maple Ridge. Encouraging retail and service businesses to cluster so that they can provide one stop locations for a variety of needs will help to reduce retail leakage and, as a secondary benefit, reduce the number of trips people need to take which will reduce costs for them and pollution in the community.
We must be open to the fact that Internet shopping has altered buying trends and this may change the way that shops look and function as compared to the way they traditionally worked. Successful attraction of business will be achieved by providing flexible zoning, reasonable licensing requirements (for all business types), and a less onerous regulatory system. If Maple Ridge makes itself open for business, the private sector will come, as long as municipal hall does their part to provide prompt, efficient, and friendly service.
While claims have been made that our business community is growing, the evidence is clear – it is not. Since 2008 the number of Maple Ridge businesses is down. How is this possible, in a community that is growing in the number of citizens? Surely it seems reasonable that at least some of our new citizens will want to open businesses in the community they have chosen to reside in. Yet the only stores I see increasing in number are dollar stores and cheque-cashing/pay-day loan stores.
The message is clear to me. If Maple Ridge is to reverse the current trends, we must make changes. I propose:
- an employment incentive program (council has approved this in principle). We are now waiting for details to allow implementation. This will provide the necessary stimulus for our local economy.
- we follow the recommendations laid out in the decades of industrial and commercial studies we have commissioned. This means land use and zoning changes. By creating a greater flexibility in how we address new business we can boost our economy, create jobs, and increase our commercial tax base.
It is time to make the much-needed decisions that will provide our citizens with community balance. Along with the obvious economic benefits of attracting new business and retail shops/services, the social benefits are numerous. Our families will spend less time commuting giving them back more time for their families and recreation. This will provide a better quality of life.
Today, Maple Ridge residents spend $107 million a year outside our boundaries on the necessary and desired goods and services. We would all rather spend our money here if services were available. Maple Ridge has attracted many new individuals and families to our community, including myself, because of its natural beauty and affordable house prices; however, the younger generations are leaving in pursuit of education and employment, usually in more livable cities where they can live, work, shop, and play. It is time for city council to band together and lead Maple Ridge forward, building it into a complete and livable community.