Top row from left to right: Jean-François Perrault, Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Melanie Rupp. Bottom row from left to right: Sonia Strobel, Simian Panatch, Jessica Regan, Gary Agnew.
Photo courtesy City of Richmond
Richmond celebrates businesses' creative approach in a competitive market
Published 3:58 PDT, Wed September 27, 2023
There are many opportunities for businesses that are creative, innovative and strategic during competitive economic times and periods of slowing global growth. This was the overarching message from business leaders at the City of Richmond's 2023 Business and Partner Appreciation Event held Tuesday, September 26 at the River Rock Casino Resort Conference Centre in Richmond.
"Richmond business leaders are innovators," said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, as he welcomed over 100 local companies and partners attending the event. "Through your creativity and hard work, you are building organizations that will help our community thrive well into the future.
Keynote speaker, Jean-François Perrault, Scotiabank's senior vice president and chief economist, noted that while growth is finally starting to slow, both businesses and households have demonstrated an underlying resilience, with default rates near historic lows. He acknowledged that labour shortages remain a top-of-mind issue for many employers – yet increasing employment levels and record population growth could point to a soft landing for the Canadian economy. However, inflation is starting to edge upward again. "This is an environment that forces firms to be as competitive and innovative as they possibly can," Perrault noted.
Panel moderator, Melanie Rupp, senior director, Loans and Advisory Services, WeBC, and City of Richmond Economic Advisory Committee Member, opened the discussion on "Creative Approaches in a Competitive Market" by asking the guest panel of four Richmond business leaders how they are taking a different approach to business as usual.
"We're putting in more than we take out," said panelist Simran Panatch, managing director of Athiana Acres, a 30-acre regenerative farm. She described their practices that prioritize both soil health and community health, as Athiana Acres is creating a farm and produce purchasing experience in the heart of Richmond that is also a space for the community to gather and connect.
Fellow panelist Jessica Regan, chief executive officer and co-founder of FoodMesh, noted that as a certified B Corporation, they have had to think not just about what they do, but how they structure themselves from a governance perspective and as a healthy organization. "It creates a different kind of wealth," Regan noted. FoodMesh helps businesses divert unusable food away from waste streams and onto people's plates. She described how adapting their value propositions to meet customers' changing priorities and adopting more circularity into FoodMesh's operations (renting or buying second-hand equipment versus new) has proven vital in shifting economic times.
Gary Agnew, chief executive officer and co-founder of Ideon Technologies, noted that everything consumed on Earth is either grown or mined, and explained how his company is offering ground-breaking mining technology–using energy from supernova explosions in space to provide x-ray-like visibility of the ground below. He pointed to innovation in three key areas: their B.C.-developed technology, business model, and company culture. "We strive to create a passion for solving problems," noted Agnew, "When something seems almost impossible to achieve, that's the time not to give up. It usually isn't too many steps after that there is a breakthrough."
Sonia Strobel, chief executive officer and co-founder of Skipper Otto, a company that directly connects small scale Canadian fishing families to seafood-loving consumers, explained how her business model de-risks the inherent uncertainty in fishing. As a community supported domestic producer, Skipper Otto has also continued to thrive despite trade and supply chain disruptions that have affected others. Their success equates to continued success for partners in the community including businesses that cut and package their fish, as well as the stores and other locations that consumers regularly visit to pick up their orders of the season's catch, and do their other shopping while there. Emphasizing the success of these collaborations, Strobel noted, "we can work together, and we must work together."
Mayor Brodie thanked businesses for their creativity and hard work, acknowledging that their success makes Richmond's economy prosperous and demonstrates that the city is a desirable place to live and work.
The city's Economic Development Office works to grow Richmond's business and employment base and maintain a healthy business environment in the city. For more information, visit businessinrichmond.ca, Facebook: @Richmond.EDO, X (Twitter): @RichmondEDO.