Businesses of Langley, both large and small, are being weighed down by the same exporting challenges they faced 20 years ago, stunting potential economic growth.
This is according to vice-president Ken Dennis of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce. It, along with the BC Chamber, has pushed for Aldergrove’s border crossing to expand its operations to 24 hours instead of its 8 a.m. to midnight schedule.
The chamber first signed a policy initiative advocating for round-the-clock border service two decades ago, Dennis noted.
Such a change would result in reduced wait times for markets around the world that rely on goods manufactured in Langley.
Dennis cited the example of when the Sumas-Huntingdon border crossing – open 24 hours – encountered flooding the first weekend of February.
“It would have made sense to open the Aldergrove border all of that night,” he said.
Instead, “an immense backup and re-routing of goods” occurred for those that couldn’t cross in the eastern Fraser Valley, he said.
Langley exports are not arriving as fast as those sent out from other, more accessible Metro Vancouver cities.
Dennis said local prosperity “depends on our ability to export our goods and services across the country and around the globe,” and companies prioritize shipping times based on when they are able to move goods.
The Langley area has two industrial-sector areas where mass manufacturing produces goods for trade – Aldergrove’s Gloucester and Campbell Heights in south-eastern Surrey.
It also has the largest concentration of logistics businesses in the Lower Mainland, along with Abbotsford and Surrey – which are connected to railway terminals and ports that assist in exporting their goods, such as CN rail terminal in Surrey, Dennis said, and the Sumas border crossing.
“We need to be able to move goods, whether out of a port or land border, at reduced times,” Dennis emphasized.
In addition to lobbying on border issues, the local chamber can help Langley’s small to mid-size enterprises (SMEs) the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) and International e-Commerce Essentials Program (ICE) to offer exporting know-how.
To date, the BC Chamber has engaged more than 170 companies in TAP, and participants have experienced an average growth of 28 per cent in international sales within a year, Dennis added.
The ICE program consists of a one-day interactive workshop to equip SMEs for online market entry and international market development.
ICE complements TAP in that it is open to product and service-based companies that wish to enter new retail markets through internet sales.
B.C. is an an export-driven economy. Its prosperity “hinges on its ability to trade openly in the global and Canadian markets,” Dennis said.