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An exclusive feature publication of The Richmond News


History, nature and a ‘can-do’ attitude contribute to impressive employment stats BUSINESS I PROFILE

Misty Mountain Specialities moving worldwide Inside the Richmond Chamber of Commerce: BC Chamber – 62nd AGM and Conference May 22 - 24, 2014

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INSIDE BUSINESS RICHMOND Richmond City Hall, the hub of local government, features a user-friendly, “front of house” design which brings staff into direct contact with residents and business owners alike.


Business Richmond is published four times a year by the Richmond News advertising department, 5731 No. 3 Road., Richmond, B.C. V6X 2C9. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the publisher’s written permission. Unsolicited material will not be returned. Publisher assumes no responsibility. For editorial information, contact Business Richmond Director of advertising Rob Akimow.


In a bustling city that has the distinction of being home to more jobs than workers, managing growth and tending to the needs of local businesses are tasks city hall approaches with a “can-do” attitude, says Mayor Malcolm Brodie. / Pages 8,9 Publisher Tom Siba


Editor Eve Edmonds

Chamber of Commerce 11 Richmond 

What does the Richmond Chamber of Commerce do? Staff explain the myriad roles the organization has been filling since its inception in 1925. Director of Advertising Rob Akimow

Business Profiles

How does the local chamber helps it members? Two Richmond business owners tell their stories about how they are thriving, in part to the connections they have developed by being active chamber members.

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Welcome from the BC Chamber Welcome to the 62nd AGM and Conference


n behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Richmond for our 62nd Annual General Meeting and Conference. The core strength of the Chamber network and the reason our policies are well regarded by governments is the quality of people in our network. We represent all regions of the province and have a policy process, including this annual conference, which delivers reasoned and effective policy. In my term as Chair, I have continued to be impressed and inspired by the tremendous talent and unwavering commitment you all have towards making B.C. better. Our policies that we present to govern-

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ment help improve the economic and social climate of our province, making it a better place for all of us to live, work and run our businesses. They are central to our relevance as an organization, and a demonstration of why we are truly the respected voice of business in British Columbia. Our annual conference is the time and place at which we collectively invest in developing these policies. I want to thank you all for being here this year, and for everything you contribute at the conference and throughout the year to British Columbia and our business community. Sincerely, James Belsheim Chair, BC Chamber of Commerce

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he Richmond Chamber of Commerce is honoured to host and welcome delegates from across our beautiful province to the 2014 BC Chamber AGM & Conference. We will be hosting at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel located in busy and vibrant central Richmond, just minutes away from the Vancouver International Airport and Canada Line. Conference delegates will also enjoy a reception in the beautiful Village of Steveston at the recently restored Seine Net Loft, located at the historic Britannia Heritage Shipyard on the Fraser River. We are very proud of what our collective Chamber network has accomplished and continues to strive for. For our part, we have many great causes underway.

Our policy focus on the prosperity and sustainability of the Fraser River, as well as our thrust for enhanced air access will not only benefit our community, but all of British Columbia and Canada as a whole. I am very much looking forward to the continued partnership and ongoing collaboration within our network on behalf of the business community. As we share ideas, make new connections, and build on longstanding ties, you are invited to experience all of what Richmond has to offer.


Sincerely, Brian Williams Chair, Richmond Chamber of Commerce

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History, nature and a ‘can-do’ attitude contribute to impressive employment stats By Philip Raphael


avorable geographic proximity. An abundance of community amenities. Vibrant commercial and retail sectors. A cluster of tourist-drawing natural and heritage sites. Livable neighbourhoods. And a municipal government willing to help local business prosper. Richmond possesses all of these attributes, and more, which has produced one of the most enviable employment statistics in Metro Vancouver — the worker to job ratio. In Richmond’s case, that comes in between 1.2 to 1.4 jobs per local worker, according to Census Canada statistics. And while the City of Richmond can’t

take all the responsibility for that, it is a point of civic pride. Moreover, it’s a situation that bears careful management, said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “We do have the highest jobs to workers ratio in the region,” Brodie said. “And it’s an interesting scenario because people want to live close to their work. And employers want to situate their businesses close to where their employees are. “So, it’s a two-way street. If we can encourage people to live in Richmond — offer them really good amenities, good schools and neighbourhoods — they want to live here and employers want to be here as well.”


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According to B.C. Statistics, Richmond had a total population of just under 200,000 in 2012; the total labour force was 92,470 (those 15 years of age and up) and there were approximately 125,000 jobs. That produced a job to resident worker ratio of 1.35. Just as impressive is the fact many of those people in the workforce choose to work where they live. According to Census Canada figures for 2006, a shade under 40 per cent worked locally. “We try and create a city where people can live affordably, where we have the facilities that attract them,” Brodie said.

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“We also have a range of opportunities and housing for everybody.” Creating a favourable business environment is also key, he added. Helping pave the way for firms to set up shop locally is the city’s “can-do, user-friendly type of atmosphere among the staff,” Brodie said. That atmosphere is reflected in city hall’s “front of house” design philosophy that makes accessibility to staff quick and easy. “People can come in, and it’s a onestop shopping for everything. But it’s a lot more than that, as well,” Brodie said. Working closely with the Richmond Chamber of Commerce helps the city develop programs with a business perspective regarding streamlining processes, while keeping important standards and regulations intact. One such example is the recent cutting of red tape for businesses thanks to the municipal business licensing initiative. “Along with the Richmond Chamber

of Commerce, we worked with five other cities to develop one licence that is good in all those areas. That’s especially good for the trades people who don’t necessarily need a licence in every location,” Brodie said. “They just apply for one, and they have it for the entire territory.” Another new service allows businesses to re-new their licences online. “It’s those kind of programs where we try to accommodate businesses, cut down red tape and be supportive,” Brodie added. “And also, at the strategic level, we have an outreach program, that is available to businesses of all sizes, where we can talk to them about what their needs are. And while that addresses the specific needs of those businesses, it also encourages us to make changes which could affect the whole business community.” The city also has an economic advisory committee made up of local business

City of Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie leaders which discusses strategic issues and makes recommendations. BR





hat’s it like to do business in Richmond? For Dave Newman, the writing is on the wall — literally. He and his staff are tasked with projecting a brand image

10 MAY 2014

for customers in a variety of signage formats designed to create favourable first and lasting impressions. His Lulu Island franchise is one of the most successful operations of Signarama in Canada.

“We try to do what we think people should be doing for themselves,” Newman said. “And that’s branding their business so people know what they’re doing. Because, they say that doing business without a sign is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.” To help get exposure for his own company, Newman said he and his staff are employing all of today’s contemporary marketing tools, from creating a social media presence, to online marketing. But one of the most effective features is an old school approach — meeting people face to face. The vehicle for that? Becoming an active member of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce when he opened the business seven years ago. “We felt that from a business perspective we needed to be out there, involved and engaged with other businesses,” Newman said. “So, we attend all of the chamber’s networking breakfasts and as many other events as we can, because when you do business, you do it with people. “We do social media and email blasts, and all of those things that you’re supposed to do today to build your business, but nothing beats getting out there, shaking hands with people, introducing your-

self and understanding what they need solutions to.” Also important is getting involved at the community level. “We’ve built our business by making sure we’re involved in the community, the chamber and a lot of the societies. As a result, we do a lot of not-for-profit work,” Newman said. “And that’s a great way of giving back.” Why is that important? “We’re in the community,” Newman said. “To be in the community and invested in the community you have to be part of it — show that you’re giving and feel good about it. “We don’t broadcast it. It’s just what we do. We just get involved.” Over the years those efforts to make connections in the business to business arena have helped lead to a series of satisfied customers that include the likes of Steve Nash Fitness and organizers of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The results have been satisfying for both client and firm. “Customers, in general, are totally blown away by what we can do for them,” Newman said, adding his firm can provide everything from small business signage to wrapping entire vehicles so they become mobile billboards. “And when the customer is happy, that makes us feel good, too.”


Chamber involvement provides myriad of rewards By Philip Raphael


aced with the mounting demands placed on today’s workforce, what motivates someone to get involved with their local chamber of commerce — let alone decide to be one of the leading forces? In the case of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, it’s outgoing chair, Brian Williams, and his replacement, Gerard Edwards have, not surprisingly, somewhat similar views. “For me personally, it’s really walking my talk,” Edwards said, adding he found that as he progressed through his professional life as an engineer, a consultant, instructor and author, firms needed to start exercising corporate responsibility to remain relevant. “I’ve always aspired to that. I’ve written about it, taught it, and this is the time in my life that I have to walk the talk,” he said. And he started by looking close to home — his own business, Incisive Marketing. “My business has always been based in Richmond and I came to the realization that we hadn’t done anything recently in the local community,” Edwards said. “My business partner, and wife, was previously involved with the Richmond Foundation and the United Way. But I wanted to get involved, and give back.” And over the past five years since he’s been with the Chamber, Edwards said it has been a fabulous and rewarding experience.

RCC Chair Brian Williams and Vice Chair Gerard Edwards


“The culture, the people,” he said, “there’s a nucleus there that really believes that it’s not just about throwing money at a problem. It’s experience, it’s values and leadership that you can also give back to the community. “It’s about getting in there, being involved and setting an example, working with people and getting them motivated,” Edwards said. For Williams, president of Ashton Service Group, his association with the Richmond Chamber began after his company received a Business Excellence Award a number of years ago. From that time onwards Williams said he developed an insight into the Chamber’s philosophy and decided to get more involved and become a board member. “It’s more about finding like-minded people,” Williams said. “People who want to make a difference in their community and make a living at the same time. It’s also not about one person winning, but sharing.” “I have no doubt there have been threads like that running through the Chamber for a long time,” said Edwards. “But when I came in, I found a culture of giving — it’s giving time, information and support. Sometimes it’s about giving cash. But it’s attracting the right people with a common philosophy.” And it includes delivering assistance to fellow businesses in terms of networking and services. “Plus, it’s also about setting

12 MAY 2014

an example that people can follow because corporate and social responsibility is a key element,” Edwards said. “It can set a business apart, But it can also put glue in the business.” And when things come together and a local business prospers thanks to its chamber connections, there is a great deal of satisfaction, Williams said. “It feels good when you can actually make a difference for somebody,” Williams said. But that doesn’t mean there are not challenges for the

feel from their jobs and home life, much of the local Chamber’s efforts currently are on the engagement side of the ledger. “So, we have to rethink how we do things.” “Essentially, you’ve got to be creative,” said Williams, adding his own company is an example of that type of non-traditional thinking by matching time with its employees to allow them to help out charities they have an interest in, even if they reside outside the city limits. “We want to take an interest in what is important to

AGM in Richmond this month it will provide the Richmond Chamber of Commerce with a number of opportunities to focus the spotlight on issues that have local, as well as broad-ranging provincial interest. “Transportation is a big one. So is the importance of dredging to the (Fraser) river. And the meetings gives us a chance to elevate that those discussions to all of B.C.,” Edwards said. “And while having the B.C. AGM here extends our voice, it also extends our learning,

local chamber and those others across the province and country. “I think any membership organization today is experiencing challenges because people are so busy,” Edwards said, adding that as a result of the time squeeze many people

our employees and their families,” he said. “Advocacy is also an important part of a chamber’s Chamber’s function — to be the voice of the business community,” Edwards said, adding that by hosting the B.C. Chamber of Commerce

as well.” “It also gives us the chance to showcase our city,” Williams added. “People from around the entire province are coming. So, it’s good for the local economy and local businesses that work throughout the province to shine.” BR





hoever coined the phrase that the more things change, the more they stay the same could have very easily been referring to the role of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Even though it was founded in 1925 as the Richmond Board of Trade, many similar issues from those early days occupy the efforts of its membership today. “The primary focus back then would have been infrastructure development and municipal growth,” said Matt Pitcairn, the chamber’s manager of communications and policy.

“So, I think many of the issues are similar, although the scale today would seem much different.” Eighty-nine years ago the chamber was founded mainly by those in the farming business — one of Richmond’s most significant industries of the time. Today, while that may have shifted to transportation and the service industries, the local business scene still feels the presence of those founding families. “If you look at our founding charter, it’s a who’s who of recognizable family names in Richmond today — the Steves, the Mays, Gilmore, Brighouse,” Pitcairn

said. “It’s amazing to realize how prominent those people still are.” As Richmond has grown, the areas the chamber represents has changed to reflect that diversity. “We have many different sectors represented — from businesses with one or two employees, to several hundred,” Pitcairn said. “We’re pretty proud of that diversity,” added Shaena Furlong, the chamber’s membership services coordinator. “We have everything from smaller family businesses like Seto Japanese restaurant to White Water West Industries, an


Chamber staff Matt Pitcairn, Manager of Communications and Policy and Shaena Furlong Membership Services Coordinator international supplier of water slides, as members.” And since change is a constant, especially in a vibrant business community such as Richmond’s, one of the chamber’s biggest challenges is adapting to it to benefit its members. “We’re always trying to evolve as the business community changes,” Pitcairn said. “We have a very diverse and multicultural business environment and we’re doing our best to translate all of our materials into multiple languages, and send out our press releases in mainly Chinese and English. “Plus, our website is available in any language through Google Translate. Broadening our reach into as large a segment of the business community as possible is an ongoing goal for us,” he added. Currently, that reach accounts for roughly 10 per cent of the business community which has become chamber members. “Any chamber’s goal is to have every business in their community be a member and an active participant,” said Pitcairn.

14 MAY 2014

And when they do take part, the benefits can flow in a number of ways, not the least of which is the chance to network with other businesses. “We try and connect local businesses, especially members, with each other as much as possible. That’s one of our top mandates,” Pitcairn said. “Learning and education are big opportunities, too. And that’s always evolving as the business environment changes, especially in modern times with social media and the importance for businesses to have a strong web presence. So, we focus a lot of education events in that area.” Working to represent the business community with a united voice, which is another key mandate, the chamber embarks on some issues that have regional, provincial, and even national scope. One example that hits all three of those targets involves Richmond’s single largest employer — Vancouver Airport (YVR). “One of our main national issues right now, and something we have been pushing for many years, is enhanced air access,” Pitcairn said. “And our goal

there is to have more international flights coming in and out of YVR, which has benefits for every business in Richmond and the region.” In fact, transportation-linked enterprises form one of the mainstays of Richmond’s business landscape. “With active seaports, YVR, major highways going north-south and eastwest, our proximity to the U.S. border, being on the edge of the Pacific gateway, and our multicultural community are immense strengths for us,” Pitcairn said. “The business links we have with Asia are already huge and are going to get bigger.” While global trade may not have dawned on those setting up the Richmond Board of Trade in 1925, they would have undoubtedly recognized the opportunity and benefits of advancing as a group — something that, for the chamber, remains true 89 years later. “Essentially, we want to foster business success in Richmond,” Furlong said. “And, really, we all prosper when one of our member businesses proposers.” BR


Partnership provides opportunities for KPU By Philip Raphael


xchanging knowledge can lead to opportunities. That’s one of the foremost reasons behind Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s partnership agreement with the Richmond Chamber of Com-

merce. The school, which has four campuses dotted around Metro Vancouver — one in Richmond, two in Surrey and one in Langley — uses the relationship it has with the chamber to assist its students in finding practical work experience, while enriching the local business community with a constant stream of qualified and dynamic talent that brings with them contemporary skills and a keen outlook. In short, it’s a good match, said Jeff Norris, who serves a number of roles at KPU as its Chief Advancement Officer, CEO of the KPU Foundation and executive director of the KPU Alumni Association. “We’ve long worked with the chamber on different projects,” Norris said. “It ranges all over the page, in terms of the chamber bringing some of their partners and other members to us to find opportunities for our students to do projects with them, and us bringing experts to the chamber.”

16 MAY 2014

One area where that relationship particularly flourishes is at KPU’s school of business. “It’s a huge hub for business students. We have the largest, undergraduate business school in western Canada with around 1,000 students studying in that area,” Norris said. “And the real push around our business school is the fact our students get the most practical application of their education possible. That means doing a number of projects with businesses in the community.” That can range from a practicum, where help on a marketing plan is provided, or working with a not-forprofit group to assist in fundraising. “And our PR students actually help put on events for not-for-profit groups as part of their curriculum. So, we have very direct community outreach from our students, which I’m sure has a very significant impact,” Norris added. Also making a difference locally is the fact the vast majority of students studying at the Richmond campus are from the local area, which, in turn, leads to benefits for the community. “Close to 90 per cent actually come from our direct region,” Norris said. “And once they’ve completed their schooling, tracking shows many graduates don’t stray too far from home. “We see a very similar number stay — just under 90 per cent,” Norris said. “So, we know that we’re actually educating and training individuals who are going to stay in our region and continue to serve here.” But KPU also reaches far beyond the city’s limits with some of its programs, which adds a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere to the school, drawing upwards of 1,000 international students annually. “It’s a real positive thing for us because we want to have our students get exposure to international trade, and part of that is getting to know individuals from other countries,” Norris said. Between local and international students, the Richmond campus boasts about 19,300 students, which is roughly 40 per cent of Kwantlen’s total population across four campuses, Norris said.


Artist rendering of the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design “And our operating budget is about $150 million. So, just based on that, we are an incredible employer and business in the community, with approximately half of our 1,500 employees working at the Richmond campus.” As for the future, KPU in Richmond is looking to further its impact thanks to a pair of expansion projects. First, there is construction of a new design school. The Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design — named after the founder of the Lululemon yoga wear brand — is a $36 million facility. Moreover, it will be more than a school, according to Norris. “It’s always been envisioned that this is an opportunity to put a heart in the ever-growing design community here in the Lower Mainland. And I think we’ll see, in the longrun, because we’ve put that heart right in Richmond, that we’ll have lots of spinoff business opportunities happening directly in the city.” Also, in terms of expansion plans, KPU’s also hopes to build a student residence adjacent to the school. If the project is approved, it could further enrich the learning community at KPU and enhance the immediate region at the same time, said Norris. “That would allow us to do a number of different things, not just for international students coming in, but students from outside the region who want to study in a different program, or have things like language lab centers, where people are actually living and speaking a different language when they’re studying,” JEFF NORRIS Norris said. BR

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From forest floor to table Misty Mountain Specialities uses chamber network to keep mushroom crops moving worldwide By Philip Raphael


hen your products have to get from the forest floor of northern and central B.C. to some of the finest restaurants on the other side of the globe as soon as possible, making the right connections to ensure things run swiftly and smoothly is paramount. For Misty Mountain Specialties, an active member of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, it’s a daily requirement — shipping top quality mushrooms to be served to discerning chefs and their customers in France, Belgium and Japan, to name just a few destinations the Richmond-based firm has on its client list. “We can have products on a restaurant table in Paris in about two days after being picked,” said company president David Kwen, adding mushrooms are a fragile, perishable product that can lose a tremendous amount of their value if delays are encountered. “It depends on the mushroom. The morel, for example, we have to get it out as soon as possible,” Kwen said. “It’s quite porous and heat sensitive.” In general, a mushroom can lose about two per cent of its moisture each day. And since they are about 80 to 90 per cent water, that can add up quickly, especially when dealing with the more valuable varieties. For example, the maitake is revered by the Japanese and even seen as an aphrodisiac. “A lot of them are served in the Geisha houses,” Kwen said. And they can go for $100 per pound. So, two per cent of $100 is $2 a pound per day you are losing if you get held up.”

Keeping the supply chain moving comes down to a series of factors, not the least of which is locating the business in

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Richmond, a short cross-town truck delivery to Vancouver Airport. “We go to the airport two to three times a day, more so depending on the time during the mushroom season,” Kwen said. The mushrooms are picked from forests stretching from Alaska in the north, right down to California. “We’ve also contracted some farms in the Lower Mainland — Abbotsford, Chilliwack — to grow them for us,” Kwen said. The final checking and packaging is done at the Richmond facility. Kwen said being part of the local chamber of commerce has been a plus when it comes to dealing efficiently with day-to-day business demands. “We find it’s a good climate to do business here in Richmond. It’s a user-friendly INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS

place,” said Kwen, who studied biology at UBC after moving to Vancouver with his family as a youngster from Trinidad and Tobago. “We have a good chamber of commerce which is helpful and can steer you in the right direction. We love it here.” Creating that sense of connection means getting employees in touch with the community through chamber activities. For example, Misty Mountain supports the Sharing Farm Society at Terra Nova, where produce is grown and donated to needy local families. “We believe we have to be in contact with the community here, and the best way to do that is through the chamber,” Kwen explained, adding his staff regularly help maintain the Sharing Farm’s gardens. “Whatever it is, from pulling

weeds to shaping garden beds, our workers look forward to it,” Kwen said. When it comes to dealing with city officials, Kwen said he appreciates their efficient and business-friendly attitude. “Richmond, it’s not as busy as Vancouver where a business can get lost. They (city staff) give you a list of things you have to get done, and once that’s filled, you’re in business.” Speed and efficiency is

vital in the mushroom business, which Kwen likened to the old gold rush era where fortune-seekers turned to the riches of the land. “Mushroom picking in the wild — it’s a free-for-all, like hunting. But instead of hunting deer, we hunt for the mushrooms,” Kwen explained. BR

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ill Zylmans loves what he does. And he has ever since he can remember. How else would that explain why he chose to take over the reins of his father’s farming operation — W & A Farms in east Richmond — about 30 years ago knowing the life of a farmer is all about hard work, tinged with a sense of satisfaction. “I love what I do. That’s the important thing,” he said.

“It’s the lifestyle and the passion I have.” But with soaring overhead costs, rising land prices, and a consumer market conditioned to paying low prices for fresh produce, making a living has become steadily more difficult for local famers such as Zylmans. “When you’re working on land that is worth $100,000 an acre, and you’re producing food, there’s no way you can expect to maintain that,” said Zylmans whose father started farming locally in 1948, building up to around 120 acres of fresh produce-bearing land. Today, the operation covers roughly 500 acres — about a third of it owned by the family, and the remainder leased from retired farmers, or other interests such as Port Metro

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20 MAY 2014


Vancouver or private land owners, some of whom have purchased agricultural land as speculative investments should future land use regulations change in their favour. But it’s that shift, from family owned farms to leased properties which is steadily becoming the way of the future, Zylmans said, as many in the younger generation of family owned farms today are seeking alternative ways of earning a living. “Young people now are probably a lot smarter than I was when I got into farming,” he quipped. “I got into it because I loved driving tractors, turning the soil, and watching things grow. The first thing youngsters today look at is the bottom line.” That’s not to say there are no young people interested in farming. You only need to look at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Richmond Farm School to see there is a dedicated, young crop keen to work the land. The program operates at the Richmond Sharing Farm at Terra Nova Rural Park where there is an indoor facility with a class room and access to more than two acres of farm land. There, students get a minimum of 350 hours of practical crop production and postharvest experience. “There are some younger people who would just love to get into the business of farming, but the costs are just astronomical to do that here,” Zylmans said. “And we’re seeing that throughout the whole Fraser Valley, not just Richmond.” So, what is the future of farming? Zylmans thinks there will

be an increasing number of lease farmers operations, plus a smattering that will remain family owned. Just what the break down will be, only time will tell, he said. Whatever the mix, one thing for sure is that the Lower Mainland will remain a good market for fresh produce, he added. “We (farmers) are very fortunate to be at the gateway of a population that is really second to none,” Zylmans said. “For market gardening, fresh fruit and vegetables, and selling direct to the public we couldn’t be in a better location. And that’s what we’ve built our business on. “If I look at my strawberry industry, Richmond and Vancouver have been very good to W & A Farms. There’s a large clientele. We cater to them, they look after us and we look after them. “And if you have someone who wants to step into an established farming operation, you couldn’t find a better location.” AGRICULTURE IN RICHMOND BY THE NUMBERS • Approximately 4,993 hectares (12,338 acres) of Richmond’s land base, or 39 per cent of the city, is within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). • In 2011 there were approximately 295 farm operators in Richmond. • The top three crops locally in 2011 were: cranberries (38.9 per cent), blueberries (25.2 per cent) and hay (14.5 per cent). • According to the Census of Agriculture, in 2011 gross farm receipts locally amounted to $48.6 million. BR Source: City of Richmond


Macs vs. PCs debate is obsolete Computers gather dust as mobile takes over By Barry Link


couple of weeks back a few editors and I in our chain had a brief email debate about Macs vs. PCs. Someone had heard that our IT department was suggesting replacing some of our aging Macs with newer Windows-based machines. Most of the other editors were horrified, and that’s typical of journalists, who are Apple-centric. I was the only one not bothered by the idea, since I use Apple at work, Windows at home and am happy with both. But I didn’t argue very hard, and for one reason: it felt a bit like debating the merits of Catholicism vs. Protestantism. Which branch of Christianity was better might have been a going concern a couple of centuries ago, but now no one cares. Not even the Catholics

and Protestants. The same is true of the equally theological and seemingly as ancient Mac vs. PC schism. Wave your precious Macbook Pro or Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon around all you want because whether you like it or not, the world has moved on.

APPLES AND ORANGES ARE BOTH FRUIT Years ago, we used computers as overpriced, overcomplicated typewriters. (I’m talking about normal people as opposed to geeks who used them to crunch vast reams of data.) As the machines got better and the interfaces improved, we added spreadsheets, presentations, photo editing, and

games. And a whole bunch of other pieces of software, from Quicken to QuarkXpress. They were still overpriced, and often overcomplicated, but became steadily more useful. Once we added the Internet, from email to the web, they turned into the most profound communication devices ever invented. All of that work was done intimately through the computer we used and the interface it hosted, whether it was designed by Apple or Microsoft. Both the Mac and PC camps attracted adherents, and, in a way that seems stupid and shallow now, we strongly identified ourselves by the company of the computers

we kept. A one button mouse vs. a two-button mouse? That mattered! Now think of what you do with your computer today: send email, check Facebook, play Words With Friends, perform routine banking. Almost all of that you likely do through a web browser, and I’m not going out on a limb by suggesting the experience of these activities on a browser is little different on an Mac vs. a PC (or increasingly, a Chromebook). In fact, I’m not going out on a limb to suggest Macs and PCs are at parity, even with the current oddness of Windows 8 and the greater complexity of choice among PCs. Both sides have borrowed from the other and both are mature and powerful technologies. Both will get you to the church on time. BUSINESS RICHMOND 21

MOVING FORWARD WITH MOBILE But chances are you’ve chosen a different route to church. That emailing, Facebooking, Words with Friending and banking you do online? You’re using your phone or tablet to do it. They’re simpler, cheaper and a lot more portable than computers, and what’s more, they’re all you need to connect to the

online services like Facebook that dominate our social lives. That fancy iMac? It’s gathering dust in the corner. It has far more power than anyone needs. Like the Inquisition or the leaders of the Reformation, that big, expensive computer just doesn’t matter anymore and goes a long way to explaining the decline in traditional computer sales. The old Windows vs. Mac debate will continue in isolated pockets, among for example creative professionals like journalists, who have special technical needs and neuroses to match when it comes to their tools. As for the rest of us, the theological debate in tech has moved to smartphones and tablets and whether

iPhones/iPads vs. Android gets you to social media heaven faster. But even this debate is dying down. Facebook, Gmail, Instagram and even traditional desktop stalwarts like Microsoft Office are making their way to almost all smartphones and mobile devices. Smartphones, like the PCs and Macs before them, are becoming remarkably alike, as anyone who looks at new phones can see. A touchscreen, some buttons to push, and the same group of popular apps. And that’s not a bad thing, because the real things in life to argue about are not phones, iPads and operating systems. BR

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Business Richmond June 2014  
Business Richmond June 2014