During a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, being a relatively small community like Langley City is a good thing, according to Councillors Teri James and Paul Albrecht, the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of a task force aiming to kick-start economic recovery.
“Our size is in our favour,” James commented during a Monday, June 8, briefing on the Langley City Economic Restart Action Plan developed by the Economic Development Task Group and approved by council on May 25.
“There’s no fat on this pork chop. We have four square miles of connected [people and businesses],” James added.
“I think we’re very nimble,” Albrecht observed.
Which is why the plan, to encourage and support residents, businesses, investments, and job creation opportunities can, realistically, include having members of council and senior staffers at City hall phone individual businesses with words of encouragement to see how they’re doing and, if needed, connect them to programs that can assist during the pandemic.
“We’re in different boats going through the same storm,” is how the plan sums up the message.
“Normally, it would be a face-to-face meeting,” Albrecht remarked.
Not all of the nearly 1,000 businesses in the City will be contacted, just those most likely to be hurt by the pandemic-induced business slowdown.
James, who is also head of the Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA) , said early indications are while many Langley City businesses took a hit, most of them are likely to weather the storm.
It appears the businesses that have closed, like Gabby’s Country Cabaret and Mary’s British Store, were already looking at shutting down before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, James elaborated.
As developed by the task group headed by the two councillors, the 16-point economic restart plan has five themes; sharing information, outreach, advocacy, stimulating [the] economy and financial support.
Some of the action items include; making the Langley City website a one-stop shop for business owners looking for COVID-19-related information from all levels of government; working with groups like the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and the DLBA to survey businesses and help clarify senior government guidelines; lobbying provincial and federal levels of government on behalf of local businesses and promoting awareness of the provincial residential property tax deferment program.
To help stimulate the economy and hasten recovery, the plan calls for creating outdoor patios to allow Langley City restaurants to have the same number of tables as they did before they had to take some out to meet COVID-19 and social distancing requirements.
A streamlined process aims to provide speedy decisions on most patio applications.
“If they are not serving liquor, it’s a very simple process,” Langley City City Chief Administrative Officer Francis Cheung advised.
Liquor licences involve another level of government, so those applications will take longer, Cheung warned.
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Albrecht described the plan as something designed for the long-term, to assist local businesses wherever possible in what is likely to be a long process of recovery, even after the pandemic is over.
“Its not a ‘month-long, get through COVID, then you’re done,’ kind of thing,” Albrecht said.
“We’re here to actually get some things done.”
A centrepiece of the sharing information part of the plan is a constantly updated page on the Langley City website that aims to provide a single, easy-to-navigate place where businesses can find all of the information needed.
Planning department staffer Anton Metalinkov said the goal is to keep it as current as possible.
“We’re going to do the Googling,” is how he put it.