Building Maple Ridge’s Economic Future
What type of jobs do we want to encourage in our community?
On the national level, we sometimes hear discussions about Canada’s “Balance of Trade” or “International Trade Deficit” to describe the net difference between the goods and services we export vs. those that we import. A trade surplus is a good thing for Canada because a net outflow of goods and services means a net inflow of money, increasing the overall wealth of Canadians. That same concept can be applied to a province or even a municipality.
A retail store that sell products made elsewhere, although necessary to support the community, actually results in money leaving our community. A manufacturing or service industry that sells to customers outside the region results in money coming into our community. In order to have a trade surplus and increase wealth for Maple Ridge residents we simply need to have more growth in manufacturing and service industries than the growth in retail stores [Oversimplifying a little bit. Maple Ridge residents, especially the youth, need to have access to appropriate education to be qualified for these jobs]. Manufacturing and service industry jobs also often require a higher level of education and/or technical expertise. As a result, these jobs tend to pay higher wages.
Maple Ridge was named the 2010 #5 Top Canadian Investment City by the Real Estate Investment Network and work is already being done to promote investment in Maple Ridge. We need to make sure we are knocking on the right doors to attract businesses that will not only benefit from, but provide benefit to, our Maple Ridge community. This can mean actively marketing Maple Ridge to larger established companies, possibly using tax incentives, to convince them to relocate to Maple Ridge. A longer term vision includes promoting ourselves as a worthwhile location for small business, and putting programs in place to assist with nurturing and growing these businesses.
Where do we want these businesses to locate?
These companies and their well-paid employees are potential customers for retail business in Maple Ridge so we want them to locate in areas already zoned for business use and close to existing shopping areas. This makes it convenient for employees working at these companies to spend money in Maple Ridge, and support local business. When we have growth in manufacturing and service industry jobs, we create a stronger customer base for retail and, as a result, we will also see greater choices for shopping in Maple Ridge.
Having new business development in areas already zoned for business use costs the municipality less money because the infrastructure to support that development (such as water and sewer) already exists in those areas. If we are using tax incentives to encourage business to locate in our community we don’t want to have to dissuade them with significant development charges due to locating in an area that does not have this infrastructure already available, nor do we want to create a situation where property taxes need to be increased to cover these costs.
What is possible?
I am am excited about the potential for positive growth in Maple Ridge, providing local well-paying jobs in our community and am interested in hearing your ideas about how we can encourage this growth. If you are currently commuting to work outside Maple Ridge, what incentives might convince your employer to re-locate here? What type of new business development would result in a local job for you?