People are moving to Coquitlam and business needs to follow.
The massive growth over the past few years — including during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — is prompting the city to retool its economic development plan.
Last month, council OK’d a work plan to hire a consultant to study the city’s assets, as well as to reach out to current and future businesses, stakeholders and residents to figure out how to move forward with investment over the next five years and beyond.
The current economic development strategy is 12 years old.
Andre Isakov, manager of economic development, told council the new plan will “help to refine our sense of purpose” and provide a road map by focusing on local, regional and foreign opportunities identified by Metro Vancouver’s Regional Economic Prosperity Services.
He explained the city has applied for federal funding to offset the cost of the foreign business component; the city has budgeted up to $120,000 for the consultant.
Deputy city manager Raul Allueva said the work comes as Isakov takes over the division from David Munro and as the city eyes new realities created by the global virus.
“The pandemic recovery continues to present uncertainty but also potential to reassess for strategic directions,” Isakov told council-in-committee on Nov. 22.
Besides job creation and public/private partnerships, the city is noting some emerging themes in economic development to include in the updated document. These include identifying vibrant place development, attracting talent and delivering sustainable infrastructure.
Still, the new plan also needs to lay out the city’s story.
“Do you know what our success story looks like?” Coun. Trish Mandewo asked Isakov. “It’s something that we’ve been struggling with around this table.”
Isakov stressed the new plan will be guided by community input, with public consultation due to start in the spring. The final strategy is expected next winter.
Coun. Dennis Marsden, past chair of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, suggested the outreach includes the BC Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and senior politicians to ensure Coquitlam “doesn’t get swallowed up” by bigger cities.
“The vision is big. It’s broad. It’s bold. It’s what a lot of us have been looking for,” Coun. Chris Wilson said.
Isakov said the consultant will bring a fresh perspective to chart the city’s economic development course, by looking at Coquitlam with new eyes and ideas.
As an example of innovation after economic hardship, Isakov cited the City of Calgary but “we’re lucky in Coquitlam that we didn’t have to face that kind of situation.”
According to the city’s 2021 second-trimester report released on Oct. 25, development and construction activity continues to rise — and set records.
Between April 1 and June 30, the city saw a 45 per cent uptick in development projects compared with the same period in 2020, and an 89 per cent jump over 2019.
As of Aug. 31, 2021, there were about 50,000 homes going up in Coquitlam.
As well, the city added $146 million in total construction value between April and June compared to a record-setting $655 million in the same time frame in 2020; however, construction values are expected to stay high until the end of the year, according to the T2 report.