Metro Vancouver aims to develop ‘regional brand’ to attract investment

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Many of the 21 municipalities represented in Metro Vancouver already have their own economic development strategies; the idea is to create a recognizable regional brand.

Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal: “Metro Vancouver is consistently rated as one of the most desirable places to live — but issues like the disparity between residents’ incomes and housing prices threaten our long-term sustainability. Our aim is to enhance the region’s economic prosperity by helping our member jurisdictions attract the right kind of large scale investments.” Nick Eagland / Postmedia News Files

The Metro Vancouver board has endorsed the creation of an economic development organization to attract investment in the region, following the lead of several other Canadian metropolitan areas, including Toronto and Edmonton.

Although many of the 21 municipalities represented in Metro Vancouver already have their own economic development strategies, the idea is to create a recognizable “regional brand,” explained Metro Vancouver chief administrative officer Carol Mason.

“It’s true that each community, to some extent, competes for opportunities, but the intent (of a regional organization) is on working together and working outward,” she told Postmedia News on Saturday.

Metro Vancouver has become aware that the finer points of local geography and governance are often lost on large, multinational corporations that have expressed an interest in a West Coast location.

“What we’ve heard is that they aren’t really thinking about municipal boundaries. If they’re looking (at a location on the West Coast), they could be open to Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond or another municipality in the region,” said Mason.

When Vancouver made a bid for Amazon’s HQ2 several years ago, it took some time to put together a proposal. A regional economic entity could have made the process simpler.

Following the lead of Edmonton Global and Toronto Global, economic development organizations that represent a collection of municipalities to international investors, the Metro Vancouver organization’s aim is to attract investment.

It will promote collaboration between municipalities to ensure efforts aren’t being unnecessarily duplicated. Part of that will be facilitating regular meetings between economic development organizations to talk about core goals.

The regional organization will also be able to provide data collection and research services to municipalities.

“Metro Vancouver is consistently rated as one of the most desirable places to live — but issues like the disparity between residents’ incomes and housing prices threaten our long term sustainability,” said Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal.

“Our aim is to enhance the region’s economic prosperity by helping our member jurisdictions attract the right kind of large scale investments, so that we may more fully realize our region’s vast potential as a great place to live and do business.”

The Metro Vancouver board approved $400,000 to get the strategy underway. The annual operating budget is expected to increase to $2.5 million by 2023.

Mason said the next step is to recruit an executive director and appoint a management board, likely a combination of elected officials and representatives from the private sector, including the port and airport, to provide oversight in the development of the marketing strategy.

The organization will engage the private sector, member jurisdictions and First Nations, as well as agencies of the federal and provincial governments through two advisory groups, which will help set priorities and provide insights into broad national and international trends.

The business plan for the new organization was developed under the guidance of a steering committee and advisory group that included the Port of Vancouver, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the Surrey Board of Trade, the Motion Picture Industry Association of B.C., Telus, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Seaspan, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, Mustel Group and others.

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