Delta is still open for business, but now is putting a strong focus on industry in the community.
“Becoming a city this year is sending a strong signal to this region, and beyond, that Delta has grown up,” said Mayor Lois Jackson, speaking at the 2018 Mayor’s Economic Breakfast on March 2.
“[We’re] no longer an afterthought for the development community.”
The event featured a number of dignitaries from all levels of government, including Jackson, Delta MP Carla Qualtrough and B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena. Business leaders also spoke at the event: Robin Silvester, president and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority; Paul Tilbury, COO of the Dayhu Group of Companies; and Todd Yeun, president of the Industrial Beedie Group.
The need for more industrial land — and a better use of that industrial land — was an important theme throughout the morning, with speakers from all areas touching on the topic.
“Industrial lands are critical for jobs — many regions actually call them job lands,” Silvester said. “This is not the lands of smoke stacks of long distant history. These are the lands [where] modern technology, labour-intensive distribution and manufacturing facilities are located.
“They’re the heart of the economy.”
According to Tilbury, who’s presentation was filled with extensive charts and graphs, there isn’t enough land to keep up with the demand for industrial properties.
“Nothing is being built at a pace that keeps up with demand,” Tilbury said. In Delta, there is around a two per cent vacancy rate for industrial properties, and although there are new properties under construction, much of these are spoken for already.
Upcoming developments, including Beedie’s Delta Link (an 11-building business centre under construction in the Tilbury area) and the Roberts Banks Terminal 2 expansion, were used as positive examples of Delta’s commitment to industry. Silvester said Delta was “almost unique” in bringing new land into industrial zones.
This was a key concern for the Port Authority, especially as it expects a 3.5 per cent increase in cargo movement over the next five years, Silvester said.
But this increase in port traffic, and increased trade from a strengthened industrial sector, will create a need for more and better infrastructure.
“While increased trade is absolutely vital for our economy and [is] going to create good jobs and good opportunities for British Columbians, we’ve also got to make sure that growth doesn’t impact communities’ safety and livability,” Trevena said.
“You can have … two fantastic industrial areas here in Delta, but you’ve got to have the people who are living here and live close to where they work.”
It’s a reciprocal relationship, Tilbury pointed out in his presentation.
“When the South Fraser Perimeter Road was opened, people came to Delta. It opened this city up even further than it had been before,” he said.
“Which is a huge piece to note for those who may be considering potential infrastructure projects that will help availability to this market.” Tilbury looked meaningfully at Minister Trevena at this point, and the audience chuckled.
References to the George Massey Tunnel, some not so subtle as Tilbury’s, were common at the breakfast. Nearly every speaker mentioned it in some way, either as a talking point or as an aside.
While Trevena’s presentation largely focused on the provincial investment in the Patullo and Alex Fraser bridges, and the Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue interchange, she also commented on the George Massey Tunnel.
“I know the question in this room is why the Patullo, not the Massey,” she said. “It’s safety at the moment, but it’s not one project over the other.”
“We are exquisitely aware of the congestion on Highway 99 and the bottleneck the tunnel causes,” she continued, “but we really do believe we need to explore all the options available.”
The independent technical review of a replacement is currently underway. Trevena said the government expects to receive the results of the review sometime in the spring.
At the breakfast, Jackson also took the opportunity to acknowledge a local business with the first Mayor’s Best in Business award.
Jackson honoured Ocean Trailer, a trailer rental company that expanded to Tilbury industrial park in 2013, “for attaining exceptional and extraordinary accomplishments” in the business world and in community contributions.
“Ocean Trailer has completely surpassed all expectations and has become a real beacon for the future of our industrial area in Tilbury,” Jackson said , adding the company has “[demonstrated] what a forward thinking business can accomplish when we’re all working together.”