Richmond may have an airport economy, but we can’t be complacent
Thanks to Roy Oostergo for his letter (July 23) and sharing on the employment opportunity offered to his family because of the air freight industry. It is true that YVR has become one of the largest generators of economic activity and jobs in Richmond.
However, my concern is that as a city and local government, do we have a well developed strategy to take full advantage and make the best use of the assets we have to promote an “airport-based economy”, in order to create jobs and business opportunities for the good of our residents? Indeed, Richmond had not renewed its 2002 Economic Development Strategy until this past March.
As I have expressed, complacency is probably our biggest enemy. Certainly the opportunities are already at our doorstep and Richmond will continue to grow even if we do nothing. But is this the approach we should take?
Two years ago, when Richmond and Xiamen became sister cities, we learned that Xiamen was seeking to have a direct flight connection to North America and had their eyes on an U.S. destination and partner. I am not convinced that we should not try to persuade them that flying to YVR is a better alternative and just let the opportunity go.
Take Zhengzhou as another example. Zhengzhou is becoming the largest air cargo hub in China. When it is fully built in 2025, the airport and its related economic zone will be 415 square km in area, which is three times the size of our whole city. Presently they don’t have any flights going to Canada. Should we not encourage them to turn their attention to YVR and Richmond?
The airport-based economy is not about bringing more cheap import products or new immigrants; it is about jobs and economic diversification in Richmond. It is also about bringing Canadian products to new markets in Asia. The Chinese government has recently approved the importation of strawberries and blueberries from Canada and it is good news for our farmers in Richmond. However, increasing our air freight capacity to take advantage of this is also crucial.
Many people believe that the construction industry has been the major driver of our economy. It has actually employed 3 to 5 per cent of our workforce, whereas 70 per cent of our employment is related to tourism, logistics, and transportation.
The further consolidation and growth of our airport based economy will undoubtedly be good for Richmond. It requires the coordinated efforts among the different levels of government, YVR, and the private business sector. At present, there is still much room for this collaboration to improve and this is what I am striving to work on in my capacity as a city councillor.
Coun. Chak Au