By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 18, 2013
Smell the concrete outside and hear the nail guns: Change in Maple Ridge is sensory, says Sandy Blue, the town’s economic development officer.
It all begins in her office, a department within the city where autographed photos of film stars share the space with a plethora of maps and documents on the ready to showcase investment opportunities in town.
With support from her council, and hard build connections in the business community, she seems to have pitched Maple Ridge well to the development community.
And what she is really pitching is the Maple Ridge Town Centre Investment Incentive plan.
Since its launch in 2011, the incentive plan has attracted 40 commercial and residential investments in the city core, and another 500 outside the centre.
A casino, a hotel, a Thrifty food store at an old Safeway site, 400 new condo and apartment projects, and a planned Target store, double the size of an existing Zellers store.
What brings these investors in are the generous incentives.
For new construction, developers get building permits at half the price, up to $37,500 in up-front cash bonus, and most importantly, three year exemptions from municipal property taxes.
Building a green LEED certified building?
Tax exemptions can go up to six years.
“That is enough for people to say, “Whaaat,” says a smiling Sandy Blue, with a hint of mock-surprise on her face.
Recently, she hosted investors from Surrey and explained the incentives.
“These guys said, ‘Why on earth we would build in Langley or Surrey when we can build here with these tax exemptions’,” Blue said.
Incentives are not just for new construction alone.
An ambitious new Façade Improvement Program offers similar incentives. As many as 21 stores have taken up the offer, giving the downtown a modern fresh look.
To attract high-tech industry to Maple Ridge, Blue is also working with BC Technology Industry Association to expand a successful Centre4Growth initiative.
With 300 film shoot days a year, Maple Ridge also wants to attract animation and post-production facilities to its town centre.
Blue works hard to get investors to town, and she is always looking to pitch her city to investors.
She stays up on LinkedIn, and also writes articles for Business in Vancouver magazine, never letting investors forget about Maple Ridge.
“I get it out there with the industry,” she says.