Perspectives from our Executive Director
The Strathcona BIA is embarking on a strategic planning process centered on the future vision for economic development in the district. We caught up with our Executive Director, Vincent Kwan, to gain his perspectives on the exciting work ahead.
“Among the different conversations I have been having with SBIA members, the best description I have come across about Strathcona is that it is an imperfect yet resilient district that never stops evolving in order to adapt. It is a place where we can find points of tension between people who come with their own ideals, often looking towards the same goal but sometimes may diverge on the path to take. Ultimately, Strathcona is a district that can accommodate diversity.
The diversity of people and businesses within Strathcona is one of our key assets as an urban industrial district and an aspiring complete community. This diversity is rooted in Strathcona’s unique history and continues to be shaped by entrepreneurs, investors, residents, planners, artists, community activists, political officials and, of course, the people who fuel the local economy as part of the workforce. This diversity of businesses and workforce is the economic driver of not only Strathcona but the local economy of the city and larger region of metro Vancouver. This diversity is what differentiates the Strathcona district and what anchors its competitive position for employee retention and market access. However, one must not lose sight of the fact that diversity, on its own, does not guarantee health and prosperity. Diversity is not the end goal but, instead, an essential condition for a resilient local economy that can benefit the entire community.
This diversity is a gift, but it is not permanent if we do not invest into caring for it. Nurturing this diversity requires investment into largely three areas of work. Firstly, we have to develop a continuous and deep understanding of the key economic drivers (people, organizations, infrastructures, policies) that make up this diversity. Only by fully appreciating the fundamental make-up of the economic drivers can we determine what we need to protect and where we need to attract investment. Secondly, we need to be strategic. We have to prioritize where we focus our development efforts so that Strathcona’s local economy can connect to the priorities, policies and potential of the wider city and regional economy. Lastly, we need to be effective in telling the Strathcona story as an urban industrial district and an economic driver for regional industry clusters. We need to be articulating our vision, goals and the values that Strathcona brings so that we can further attract entrepreneurs, investment and talents to the district and to continue to add to the diversity of this urban industrial district.
I often view Strathcona as a microcosm of the City of Vancouver. The tensions found in Strathcona also manifest in a similar fashion in the city and across the metro Vancouver region. On the same level, the economic potential and constraints of Strathcona also point to the opportunities and challenges of the city and region with inaction being our biggest collective threat in the near term. If Strathcona is an indicator for Vancouver’s performance, I am undeniably optimistic about the future while staying realistic and pragmatic towards the range of issues that are part and parcel of an imperfect society.
In the next 12 months, our team at SBIA looks forward to the chance of working closely with our members through a visioning and planning process as we strive to define our district’s economic development priorities. Participation, input, ideas and guidance from Strathcona BIA members will be critical in this process. I can’t wait to get to work.”