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Manufacturing, film production and tourism: Coquitlam rolls out its jobs roadmap

“Our real opportunities for land are up — not out,” said Coun. Dennis Marsden in reviewing Coquitlam's draft economic development strategy.
Lincoln Station and the Coquitlam Centre mall campus form part of the City of Coquitlam's new downtown core under the City Centre Area Plan (CCAP) update.

Coquitlam is where the jobs will be in Metro Vancouver over the next 30 years.

And it will be the second fastest-growing municipality in the region for new residents.

Those were the projections that city council heard on Monday (March 6) as staff get ready to launch an updated Economic Development Strategy for the next five years.

In his report to council-in-committee, economic development manager Andre Isakov said his team spent a year talking to business owners about what Coquitlam needs to do to have a competitive edge over its neighbours by recruiting and retaining business.

Its draft 49-page roadmap shows how the city can plug into three key sectors to ensure residents have local jobs — and not commute to other municipalities.

They are:

  • advanced manufacturing (advanced construction materials, and food and nutrition)
  • creative and cultural (film production, and visual and digital effects)
  • nature and environment (tourism and clean tech)

To drill down over the next couple of years — once council has formally approved the document following stakeholder feedback from business partners — Isakov and his team will focus on five areas to better position Coquitlam as it adds an estimated 95,000 more residents by 2050, an increase of 59 per cent over the next 30 years.

They are:

  • develop an economic development competitiveness study
  • create new business promotional marketing materials
  • establish direct business outreach programs and services
  • attract major employers to the City Centre core and other commercial hubs
  • support more Business Improvement Areas

The strategy is being funded by the city ($120,000 via the city initiatives reserve) and a $30,000 grant from CanExport.

As well, in the 2023 budget, council approved a new position for a business growth manager, who will help with the roll out of the new economic development vision for Coquitlam.

Post-pandemic push

Isakov said the work is especially important in today’s challenging market following the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created higher inflation and labour shortages.

"We all know that Coquitlam is special, and it's our people, places and partnerships that shape our story — the story of an ambitious and amenity-rich community in the heart of Metro Vancouver," he said. "We know that local business is our bloodline."

But Coun. Craig Hodge said Coquitlam’s challenge is the lack of land, especially for industrial businesses; he'd like to see one-storey industrial buildings phased out.

"The last thing that I want is more big box stores or single-storey warehousing," Hodge said, noting United Boulevard’s potential at rezoning. "We need to build higher."

"Our real opportunities for land are up — not out," added Coun. Dennis Marsden.

Still, development director Andrew Merrill said there hasn’t been much uptake to date.

Coun. Steve Kim, vice chairperson of the city's economic development advisory committee, said he likes the idea of Coquitlam forming cultural hubs to connect and bring in vibrancy to the core.

"We have so many entrepreneurs and small businesses. We need to get them out of their basements and into office space in the city," Kim said.

Coun. Teri Towner also suggested the city tap into the talent of new Canadians who, according the latest census, show that immigrants are highly educated and self-starters, while Coun. Matt Djonlic said post-secondary institutions need to be part of the picture.

Still, Coun. Brent Asmundson warned that forming business improvement areas, such as the Austin Heights BIA, "has to come from the community" and not be city-driven.