Derrick Pelley, president of the Aldergrove Business Association, said there’s a sense of community among small businesses in the neighbourhood. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Derrick Pelley, president of the Aldergrove Business Association, said there’s a sense of community among small businesses in the neighbourhood. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Langley’s economy runs on small businesses

Small business leaders say they keep community events vibrant

Some communities in B.C. are dominated by a few large businesses – whether it’s a sawmill or mine in the interior, or big financial institutions with hundreds of employees in office towers.

But Langley and its neighbourhoods are dominated by hundreds of small businesses.

As Small Business Week in B.C. approaches, the leaders of two local business organizations spoke about the importance of small business to the local economy and community.

“Aldergrove has a big sense of community,” said Derrick Pelley, president of the Aldergrove Business Association.

“People who live in Aldergrove like to shop in that downtown core,” Pelley said. They like the idea that their money stays in the area, he said.

But the small business community goes beyond just buying and selling.

Pelley said the community has a lot of mutual friendships, and that the business owners are invested in the events that define the calendar in Aldergrove.

That includes the big Langley Good Times Cruise-In in September, Halloween events, and the Christmas parade.

“Everybody shows up, and they’re representing their own businesses as well,” he said.

It’s a similar situation in Langley at large, according to Cory Redekop, CEO of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.

“The heartbeat of our community is small businesses,” he said.

Small businesses are defined as having up to 100 employees. While there are a few big institutional employers that exceed that number – Langley Memorial Hospital, the school district, and some of the bigger complexes in Gloucester Industrial Estates – the vast majority of enterprises are smaller than that.

That includes industrial firms, service businesses, restaurants, and shops.

Both Langley City and Township have benefited over the past few decades from having a very diverse business environment.

Go back 70 years, and much of Langley was agricultural, especially dairy and poultry farms, along with some remaining sawmills and lumberyards serving the logging industry. The community was a relatively sleepy farm town.

Over the following decades, Langley would expand its population as new highways allowed suburban development.

But instead of just becoming a bedroom community, Langley added a wide variety of new businesses, with industrial areas in Aldergrove and Langley City, warehouses, light manufacturing, food processing, shopping centres, and auto malls. In recent years, medium-sized office parks have become an increasingly important part of the mix, as Langley has begun competing with larger centres.

In addition to serving their customers, Redekop said small businesses support local projects, including car shows, kids sports teams, and cancer fundraisers.

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When small businesses start to disappear, it doesn’t just remove places to shop, it can hollow out of the community, Redekop said.

The pandemic was a big hit to small businesses, but both the chamber and the ABA are now seeing strong growth.

The chamber saw its membership drop to around 900 businesses during the early phases of the pandemic, as businesses either closed down or went dormant. But now it’s up to 1,000 members again, including a gain of 61 members joining over the summer.

“That was a record for us,” said Redekop.

The ABA is also growing, and currently has 70 members.

“The goal is to get to 100, and we’re going to get there,” Pelley said.

Small Business Week in B.C. runs from Oct. 16 to 22 next week.


Have a story tip? Email: matthew.claxton@langleyadvancetimes.com

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