Guest Speaker David Munro

Guest Speaker David Munro

Appreciate local businesses: guest speaker

He shared his experience at Coquitlam and Chilliwack.

City of Coquitlam economic development manager and BC Economic Development Association treasurer David Munro spoke on rural-urban economic development as the keynote speaker of AdvantageHOPE’s annual general meeting on March 21 at the Hope Golf Club.

Before working in Coquitlam, Munro worked in Chilliwack in the same field. He learned that the further away from a city a town is, the more marketing they have to do.

“You have to be a little more aggressive. You have to tell people who you are, what you have to offer, what your assets are,” said Munro.

Munro emphasized that economic development differs from community to community, and communities have to set their expectations based on local circumstances.

He pointed to the City of Coquitlam’s tourism program, which caused a split decision in council. As the person in the middle, Munro said he formulated his message proportionally.

“You have to lay out the message clearly in what you’re reporting,” said Munro. “We’re not Whistler. But there’s an opportunity for us to create incremental economic impact.”

Munro said that when festivals came to town, they did not liaise with hotels, nor were sports teams contacting restaurants.

“You put all those pieces of the puzzle together, and then a restaurant comes up and says, ‘Woah! Thanks for introducing us to the hockey tournament — 1500 players. That was our most successful November in 20 years.’ ”

He emphasized that business attraction might look good on paper, but economic developers should not forget about retaining businesses.

“Molson, for example, Molson went to Chilliwack,” said Munro. “We get it. Create jobs. Big buildings. Great, right? Ribbon cutting. Everyone’s happy. Photo op.

“One of the things to keep in mind is 80 per cent of your jobs that are created in any economy is from the businesses that are already in your community.”

Munro emphasized that businesses in a community do not need to be convinced to stay here, especially when employees have families and homes there.

Munro added that when businesses establish themselves in a community, this elevates the business environment in a community.

“Sometimes when the businesses make their decision where they want to go —  politicians can say what they want, economic development staff can say what they want — but it’s that other businesses you bring to the table,” said Munro. “Business to business, peer to peer — they have different respect than they would for us.”

Initially, CEO of the BC Economic Development Association Dale Wheeldon was supposed to attend but he could not. Hence, Wheeldon nominated Munro.