fdi alliance international speakes to MIKE MORDEN MAYOR, City of Maple Ridge

What measurements have been taken in the city of Maple Ridge to ensure that small businesses are protected during and after the Covid -19 pandemic?

Our immediate priority was supporting the education around Public Health Orders from the BC Government. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic we reached out to our Downtown Business Improvement Association and the local Chamber of Commerce to encourage a collaboration to develop and publish a list of the businesses that were available and open to the public. Once that list was available, we supported the distribution of this information on our social media channels.

Our Economic Development team did a quick pivot to bring their resources to bear with the development of regular newsletters to connect citizens with the essential businesses serving the community and to connect businesses with the support programs that were implemented by the Provincial and Federal governments. As the pandemic has gone on, and the BC Government announced the BC Restart Plan we participated in an online Town Hall meeting with colleagues from all levels of government to support the reopening and hear, first hand, what some of the challenges might be.

The City purchased advertising and launched social media campaign for both a ‘Shop Local’ and a ‘Local Tourism’ series to encourage people to connect and reconnect with the local entrepreneurs who have been doing so many innovative things in the pandemic to keep their staff and customers safe.

Council approved an expedited process for the hospitality industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, to deploy new patios and outdoor spaces to help customers physically distance and support their local businesses.

Our Film Liaison worked closely with the Provincial group that developed the guidelines for the reopening of the film and TV industry, which is an important employer of local residents and an essential element of the BC Economy. Currently, the work has roared back and we are back to pre-COVID production levels.

City of Maple Ridge Our staff have been doing regular check-ins with the businesses and business associations and our Bylaws team have rolled out their Community Safety Officer pram of active enforcement to ensure the safety of our business areas and some proactive programs to help businesses develop strong safety programs as their retail and service environments have changed in the pandemic.

In 2019, our Council passed the most progressive home based business legislation in the region, and during the pandemic, when so many people have been working from home, these regulations have helped entrepreneurs look at ways to keep their businesses running while keeping their families safe.

We are all in this together, and we will continue to adapt processes and programs to ensure that we are supporting the business community as we navigate through this new reality.

How are you doing business differently in the City of Maple Ridge to help prevent the spread of Covid 19 and keep people in your community safe?

Our organization turned on a dime when the pandemic hit. Our staff deployed technology to allow Council to continue to hold meetings using virtual meeting tools. We never missed a single meeting, the only Council in BC to ensure that important decisions, such as project approvals, were done. The construction industry was deemed an essential service in BC, and our team helped ensure that Council was able to make decisions and approvals to keep this industry going.

Broadly, we have adopted the tone of BC’s Public health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and we have opted for an ‘education’ versus ‘enforcement’ approach for the public and business community. This is a stressful time, and we have found that when people have the facts and information, they are doing the right things.

We redeployed parks & recreation staff from closed facilities to create ‘Park Ambassadors’ in our beautiful local parks and open spaces to help people understand the importance of physical distancing. Internally, we ensured that our staff were safe by supporting remote working and deploying virtual meeting tools to make sure that we did not lose momentum on Council's Strategic Priorities.

We enacted virtual building inspections, rolled out online building permit application tools, implemented new protocols for client meetings and did what needed to be done to keep supporting our citizens and businesses.

Our parks staff delivered ‘virtual’ exercise classes and community celebrations such as Canada Day, and have organized and delivered concerts and a ‘drive in theatre’ following all the public health guidelines. Outdoor recreation programs for youth have been modified and delivered safely.

We have phased in the opening of our parks and recreation facilities to ensure that citizens can live healthy lifestyles while remaining physically distant from other family groupings.

Briefly outline some of the boldest decisions you have made to shape the future of Maple Ridge that create jobs and build opportunity for families

At the beginning of the year the new rapid bus service launched to connect our community with the broader regional transit system. As the pandemic hit, we were strong advocates that this service not be cancelled, and were supported by our neighbouring communities in the region. Fast efficient transit is essential as our community grows, and we have invested in the creation of a new parking lot adjacent to the transit hub in our downtown to support the growth of this service.

We won an award for the Home based Business Bylaw program that we implemented in 2019. We don’t see home based business as a competitor to ‘brick and mortar’ offices. Quite the opposite, home based businesses are and incubator for the future of our community. We have numerous examples where a business started City of Maple Ridge in the dining room of a citizen's home is now leasing space in our industrial park or downtown. As the economy adapts to the realities of the pandemic and the shifts in the retail world, we have recognized that a strong business community includes the people working from their home or as mobile businesses.

Our City has supported regional licensing for trades, and recently was part of the advocacy and roll out of a regional approach for ridesharing. We recognize that entrepreneurs are mobile and they need to be supported as they grow their businesses.

The City is seeing the benefits of work done 15 years ago to develop an Area Plan for the Downtown. Our Council is undertaking a Downtown Visioning to check in on that work to ensure that the rapid pace of development that we are seeing is consistent with the vision for densification of the urban core of our community. The introduction of the rapid Bus Service has created an opportunity for the development of a comprehensive planning strategy for the east west corridor that will be serviced by this new route. Proactively, Council has implemented this study and will set the plan in place to ensure that this corridor develops with a well thought out plan.

Council has been very active in looking at the zoning of land for future employment growth. A number of parcels have been identified and our staff are bringing recommendations forward to Council so that we can designate these lands and work with the surrounding neighbourhoods to ensure that we have strong ‘live/work’ balance in our community. There is a significant opportunity in the historic Hammond neighbourhood where a century old mill on the Fraser River has closed. Our City is working with prospective owners to see how this area can continue to be a strong part of the economic enhancement of our community.

Behind all of this work is the Community Social Safety Initiative that is underway to ensure that as our City grows, that we have a variety of housing options across the spectrum of affordability and that we have resources deployed in the community to address the regional pressures around homelessness, addiction and mental health. We want all citizens to feel, and be, safe and connect with resources they need to live successful lives.

How important is it to retain, expand and attract new business to the City of Maple Ridge? What new strategies will you be implementing in 2021 and beyond to achieve these key objectives?

Attracting new employment and educational opportunities to our community are Council’s highest priorities. The marketplace is changing, and our Council will be developing a comprehensive economic development strategy that fits our community and our aspirations as a City.

There is a tendency for economic development to be a bit of an ‘elephant hunt’ with everyone trying to attract the same list of ‘big game’ businesses. Our strategy is to work with the strong regional and local business community to identify emerging businesses, to help our existing businesses find the space to grow and to look to the next generation of entrepreneurs who are involved in technology, entertainment, service businesses and next generation manufacturing to give them a home for their business and their employees. Maple Ridge’s superpower is our incredible natural environment. This is a place where people can raise a family and build their business. That’s what we will be marketing.

From our business retention goals to the implementation of our fibre strategy and the attraction of post secondary educational institutions, we recognize the connections between our urban development and the changing needs of business in this modern era. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated change, and we are committed to being part of that future.

What are the leading industry sectors in the City of Maple Ridge? What other industries would like to see come into the city

The construction industry is in overdrive in our community. From my office I can see more overhead cranes than at any time in the City’s history. Our downtown is being reshaped, and that’s impacting the service industry with more personal service and hospitality businesses. Maple Ridge has a number of incredible manufacturing businesses who have been early adopters of new technology in the building trades. We have a strong business service sector and the film and TV production continue to like our City for their work.

We see an opportunity to grow the advanced manufacturing sector with our approach to creating islands of employment lands in the community. These kinds of spaces create opportunism for related businesses to collate to create technology, manufacturing or even entertainment/film hubs. We are also looking at partnerships to bring post secondary education for the many youth in our community who are looking for academic and trade training to start their careers.

How important is social inclusion in the City of Maple Ridge? What economic benefits does this have on businesses in your community?

The rapid growth of our community creates challenges and opportunities. For the people who have lived here for their entire lifetimes they are seeing their City go though an evolution at a pace that challenges their perception of who we are as a community. Our population has more than doubled in the last 25 years, and this has brought our community many talented young citizens and entrepreneurs who see different opportunities and possibilities for Maple Ridge.

Part of that growth is that social problems that were once felt to be ‘downtown Vancouver’ problems have emerged on our streets. Our Council recognizes that as we grow, we need to bring everyone along to the future. Our Community Social Safety Initiative recognizes the importance of housing, health care and safety to the well being of our City. Inclusiveness is baked into our policies and how we do business. Our streets are designed with aids to ensure that people with mobility challenges can move freely around the City. This is just the right thing to do, because wheelchair access also means access for strollers and aging citizens.

We have implemented programs to create a fund to be able to work with partner organizations to develop housing for seniors, youth and people who are dealing with financial or health hardships.

Our City is in one of the most incredible natural settings, and our Council is committed to upholding the progressive policy framework to protect these natural assets which make our community so attractive to new residents. Our planning policies have set our targets for densification of our Town Centre as a regional hub to ensure that we offer a variety of housing forms and affordability.

A key aspect of our City is social inclusiveness. Our community festivals and events calendar reflects our commitment to making sure that citizens of all backgrounds and beliefs feel safe and included in the life of our community. The diversity of our citizens is a strength. Some of our most incredible entrepreneurs and professionals have come to our community from across the globe. This is the place that they have chosen to live and to build their family and their future. Since the early settlers met at the McIver Farm to incorporate the City, our prosperity has grown as our new citizens have made Maple Ridge home.

 maple_ridge contact

Wendy Dupley, Ec.D

Economic Development and Tourism
11995 Haney Place, Maple Ridge, BC V2X 6A9
Tel: 604-467-7319
Mobile: 604 340 9453