Or at least Metro Vancouver. New West is in a unique and somewhat odd position. Historically, it was one of the major urban centres and the first colonial capital of B.C. However, as development focused in on Vancouver, New West seems to have lost its way. Now, as part of Metro Vancouver, it is in the middle of the pack as far as population goes, but sandwiched between the big cities of Burnaby and Surrey.
The geographical benefits of New West
o 10 minute drive to Central Surrey,
o 15 minutes to Surrey Docks, Newton, Metrotown, Coquitlam Town Centre
o 20 minute drive to Central Richmond
o 25 minute drive to YVR, the US Border, Cloverdale and Langley
o 30 minute drive to Downtown Vancouver
o 35 minute drive to Deltaport.
o Two rapid transit lines connecting to Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey
o Reasonable bus schedules (through Uptown/Downtown at least)
o Easily walkable neighbourhoods
o On the North/West side of the Fraser (Crossing the Fraser is a major psychological barrier the further you get away from it, and depending on traffic a major physical one as well)
The geographical challenges of New West
o Sandwiched between Burnaby and Surrey, attention is drawn away from New West to the bigger cities
o Hilly terrain, affects mobility, particularly in winter.
o No port facilities within the city
While it is mentioned in passing in places like the Official Community Plan (OCP), I don’t see how we are really leveraging our position. This is just a quick list of potential businesses types and agencies that could potentially benefit from locating in New West.
- Distribution centres
- In-home services (cleaning, cooking, nursing)
- News reporting
- Private investigators
- Trades (Plumbers, electricians, etc)
- Construction Management
- Consulting Firms
- Auto parts
- Pilot Car Operators
- Movie Servicing
- Construction Supplies and Equipment
- Regional policing
- Postal Centre
- Revenue Canada
- Children’s Ministry
- Metro Vancouver Parks
Essentially any kind of business or agency that needs to work throughout Metro Vancouver or needs decent connections to major transportation infrastructure (highways, docks, airports, border crossings) could potentially benefit from locating in New West.
In addition to location, New West has a number of other positives that make it attractive for business, including
Land Costs – Low office rates compared to region. Lower land costs than Vancouver, higher than south of Fraser
Taxes – comparable with the region.
Labour availability – local labour is available, however New West is a job neutral-job creating city, so immediately local labour may be lower than average. However, strong transit connections should mitigate this somewhat. Another issue identified in the background of the OCP is the average education of the local area is below the regional average. Along with being distant from the two major post-secondary institutes, this can make attracting high-tech business more difficult.
Image/Prestige of Area – Downtown is negative due to crime
Parking and accessibility – generally cheaper and more available than most of the region.
Under the OCP, Uptown is meant to be the Professional/High Tech centre, Downtown is the historical tourist and retail (maintaining some office and professional), Sapperton/Braid the Manufacturing centre and Queensborough the heavy industrial site. However, it is not just enough to designate certain areas for certain types of development, and restrict that through the development process. How are we encouraging business in general and the specific types of businesses we want to start or move to New West?
Two of the items identified in the OCP:
Promote new office development – this puts the cart before the horse. Construction follows demand. We need to promote professional and office based businesses to locate within New West, as they require more office space construction will follow to meet the needs.
Vibrant streetscapes – badly needed downtown to improve the perception of the area
Industrial – just platitudes on supporting and promoting for more jobs, consolidated facilities, and specialized areas.
To their credit, the city is working on some of the foundational type work such improving transportation infrastructure. However, this is moving very slowly and there appears to be little support outside of this. Business services consist of Initial Building Consultation, which is only for construction. Very little is on city website about business development or support for business, just a hard to find reference to BIA and Chamber of Commerce. While I have not spoken to them, from all accounts city staff are very helpful when calling, but who will call if they can’t get the information they need beforehand?
Despite all our benefits, the city seems content to do some of the work identified in the plan, put out less information and let the business community find us. The biggest problem New West has is being found amongst the other bigger cities. The city needs to take on a strongly active role in promoting itself to business, lest we lose our position as a job creator and settle into being just another suburb.