Would you support a corner store in Garibaldi Highlands?

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The Wilder Snail at 799 Keefer St in Strathcona

Gordon Price, from SFU  is hosting a conversation on Sept 5th about corner stores in Vancouver. I really like the idea of the corner store. I think this is another one of those concepts that will return as society re-evaluates itself like it is with the local food movements and the return of organic food that used to just be called “food” before the advent of the “modern day” agriculture industry.

“Before the 1950′s, Mom & Pop grocery stores were common features of Vancouver’s single-family residential neighbourhoods. Then car culture, supermarkets and rigid zoning rules that relegated commerce to main streets changed how communities functioned. A handful of “grandfathered” locations survived, and now their successors are transforming their neighbourhoods’ social life. Is it time to legalize new corner stores, or would they create noise and activity problems?”

I think it is time to bring this concept back.  The definition of the corner store I think needs updating but these corner stores could become micro hubs in some communities.

There’s a lot of discussion going on about this subject. Frances Bula recently published an article in the Globe and Mail about corner stores and there’s a good discussion happening on her blog as well.

I like the idea and would love to see a corner store in my neighborhood that had a general store and coffee shop/cafe. Not quite sure if the density allows or what the exact business model would have to be but it’s an interesting idea.

What do you think?

Establishing a Startup Ecosystem in Squamish

Business Startups are the economic engines that drive innovation and progress in today’s hyper-connected global economy and it’s Startup Communities that are at the center of this revolution.

Startup communities are entrepreneur ecosystems. They’re being created around the world in small and large cities like Boulder Colorado, Vancouver, Iceland and Russia to name just a few. These communities are driving innovation, creating jobs and invigorating small business energy. Simply stated; start-up communities attract and breed entrepreneurs who go on to build companies like AirBnB, Dropbox, Sendgrid and many, many more.

Squamish is a small town with big ideas currently going through a transformation. It was once a forestry town that’s now transforming into an outdoor recreation tourism destination. It’s challenged in finding ways to create local jobs and to evolve into a sustainable, self sufficient community. The population is growing quickly but the local job market is not keeping pace.

English: Squamish main street taken by Jess La...
Squamish, BC

Squamish is my community, I love this place and I want to see it succeed and prosper. It’s beautiful and has the ability to provide what I consider the best work-life balance opportunity in Canada.  That may sound biased but for me and many others, it’s the truth. There’s an abundance of great activities at our doorstep and this is what mainly brought me to Squamish in the first place. However, the challenge to completing the work-life balance equation is local jobs. Like me, there are many people that commute to Vancouver or Whistler for work and therein lies the challenge.

How do we create jobs and transform Squamish into a great place to live, work and play?

The solution to me is simple in theory. Jobs come from businesses and businesses come from entrepreneurs so it seems logical to me to find, attract, nurture and support entrepreneurs. One proven way to do this is by establishing and growing an inclusive startup ecosystem.

Startup communities are not something new. Author, entrepreneur & investor, Brad Feld is the co-founder of TechStars; a mentor-driven business accelerator in Boulder Colorado that has succeeded at building one of the most successful models for startup communities. Boulder has an incredible Startup Community. Brad’s authored several books including Startup Communities, Do More faster, and Venture Deals.  All great books I have read and that have inspired me and given me great knowledge and guidance on this subject.

“The effect on the local startup community in Boulder has been even more amazing than we anticipated. Boulder has developed a culture of sustained mentorship, where new founders place great value on seeking out mentors, and experienced entrepreneurs generously offer their time and expertise. This mindset makes the community better as a whole and it helps everyone in the community be more successful.”

To get a better understanding of exactly what I’m talking about, this great video gives a quick explanation of what a startup community is and what it needs to be successful. These lessons can be applied in Squamish or anywhere, to establish a local vibrant startup ecosystem.

The Key Points of making this a reality in any community

  • It takes long term commitment. (20 years) Creating a entrepreneurial ecosystem is a marathon not a sprint.
  • The entire entrepreneurial stack needs to be engaged.
  • Startup communities need leaders & feeders
    • Leaders must be entrepreneurs
    • Feeders are government, lawyers, accountants, angel investors, venture capitalists & educational institutions & marketers
  • Continually attracting and recruiting fresh people into the system

“In order for Techstars to be effective, there have to be the best mentors in the community who are ready and willing to participate and who understand the “give first” culture that is so important to successful startup communities. When you have a whole community behind you, rooting for you to win, and making connections for you—it’s a huge, unfair advantage.”

What’s being done for startups with Techstars in the past 7 years is fascinating and exciting in that the mentorship-driven accelerator model is and has been duplicated in over 1000 local communities around the world with great success.  Techstars has helped fund over 100 companies a year, and they have more than $70 million under management.

If Squamish wants to create a sustainable economy well into the future, it needs to look at new solutions for creating jobs and I feel that creating an active, vibrant startup community is a long term solution to our present day challenge.

Police officers should wear video cameras

glassUPDATE: I originally published this post on Nov 2nd 2012 and I thought I would update it with a cool new technology soon to be on the market from Google called Google Glass.

This is a tool that will completely change our world yet again and I’m hoping that it will change law enforcement as well. The glasses as seen here on the right can be worn like eye wear to shoot video, get directions, take photos and more. I expect we will see police, fire and paramedics with these devices in the not too distant future.

Continue reading post from Nov 2nd 2012

Thousands of complaints and police inquires are done every year about the poor conduct of police officers in the line of duty. Just last week I was hearing comments on the radio of yet another complaint about a police officer assaulting a disabled woman.

Luckily in this case, someone was filming the incident which made it very easy to determine the facts of the situation.

Sandy Davidsen, 29, was walking past three officers on the city’s Downtown Eastside in June, 2010, when Constable Taylor Robinson pushed her to the concrete. Video of the incident drew tens of thousands of views and immediate condemnation, and challenged the force’s already-strained relationship with residents of the poorest neighbourhood in the country. Source: Vancouver officer who pushed disabled woman could face harsher punishment

In today’s high tech world where the cost of video cameras are so low, I think that all police officers that are interfacing with the public should be required to wear video cameras. It’s in the best interest of the public but also the officers wearing them. as well.

With camera’s rolling, the actions, behaviors and attitude of the public as well as the officers would be different. People act differently when being filmed and I think this practice would go a long way in helping reshape our criminal system and society as a whole. With video evidence of every incident, it would take less time to sort out the facts and  would increase overall accountability.

This isn’t a new idea, there are some places that are already doing this. Here are some related articles.

13 videos to show why Squamish is the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada

Squamish is named the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada for good reason. You can participate in dozens of great outdoor activities from skiing and snowboarding to kite boarding and paragliding.

Here are 13 videos to give you a taste of whats out here.

1) 24 Hours of Squamish Radness

2) Garibaldi Provincial Park – The Great Ranger Experience

3) Splitboard TV Mount Garibaldi 2011

4) Kayak-Squamish Whitewater Paddling

5) Kiteboarding in Squamish, BC

6) Rock climbing in Squamish

7) Mountain Biking in Squamish

8) Hiking in Squamish

9) Bouldering in Squamish

10) Dirtbiking in Squamish

11)Snowmobiling in Squamish

12) Squamish, BC – The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada

13) Paragliding off the Chief

Canadian Demographics & Real Estate

Canada population atlas
Canada population atlas (Photo credit: letsgoeverywhere)

I just read an interesting article by Pacific Partners on Canadian Demographics and Real Estate. The chart below on the Canadian Population distribution is an interesting indicator of the shift that is going on.

This is going to have a huge affect on the world as we know it today. Many of the constants we have come to believe like real estate always goes up are no longer fact and consumer spending is going to take a significant shift as the baby boomers age and move into retirement.

“It is reasonable to assume that future Canadian consumer behaviour will be markedly different than what was witnessed over the last half century.”

How it will be different is yet to be determined but imagine that this huge segment of the population stops going to work everyday and starts doing something else with their time. They experience a decrease in the money coming in and start spending their savings on items more relevant to getting older and living the retired lifestyle.

For me the most interesting piece to this is that this large segment of the population that all own real estate and have counted on it as their “retirement nest egg” will all decide around the same time to sell and take out the equity.

The question I have is this; where will the buyers come from to help all of these people “cash out”? As the chart below indicates, there is a huge population gap in the 21 to 45 age group that I would assume are the potential buyers of these assets. This younger workforce that have low savings, have consumed through debt, currently owe roughly $1.63 for every $1 dollar they earn don’t seem capable of buying these assets at current day prices. They simply can’t afford it. As the market floods with baby boom homes, I think we will see significant price drops as supply will outmatch demand by a large gap.

D1-Canadian-Population-Distribution-by-Age-2012

Read the full article here.

Save On Meats meal tokens help feed the poor

photoA few days ago on my way home I heard a quick segment on the radio about a new meal token campaign that Save On Meats has started.  This wasn’t the first time I had heard of Save On Meats. They’re also the focus of a docu-series on the OWN network called Gastown Gamble. It’s a interesting show documenting the journey of entrepreneur Mark Brand and his team are taking to rebuild the business and help the community at the same time.

Save On Meats has been in East Vancouver since 1957 serving as a butcher shop and lunch counter until it closed its doors in 2008. In 2010, Mark started to rebuilt the business and has been working on bringing his vision to life.

Mark’s a business man but he’s also running socially responsible enterprise. His business is located in one of Canada’s poorest neighborhoods, the Downtown Eastside. The area is known for a high incidence of poverty, drug use, sex trade, crime, violence, but it also as a long history of community activism. In an effort to help the community and do their part, they have created a meal token program to help feed the poor by making it easier for people to donate to those in need by providing them with a meal token rather than change or cash.

“The reality is that people are hesitant to give money rather than food to people who they see on the street. With the Meal Tokens, donors can rest assured that what they give will be going towards providing much needed sustenance and at the same time, supporting Save on Meats’ social enterprise. People can choose to distribute them directly, or purchase the tokens and have Save on Meats give them to one of its dozens of community partners to share amongst their organization. The program acts as a bridge between people who want to give and people who need the support.”

Meal tokens cost $2.25 each and are redeemable for a breakfast sandwich.

You can purchase tokens online and get them delivered or you can buy them in person at Save On Meats at 43 West Hastings Street.

Update: 6meter No-Smoking bylaw means nothing in Vancouver

***Updates at the bottom of the post

I was walking downtown yesterday past the BCIT campus on Seymour  and I choked on a giant cloud of cigarette smoke billowing from the dozens of students smoking on the sidewalk right between two signs like this.

Not only were they not 6 meters away from the doors, they were leaning up against these signs posted on the wall. I couldn’t believe the absolute disregard for the bylaw, let alone the hundreds of people that had to walk through this plume of smoke to either walk down the sidewalk or walk into BCIT.

This isn’t the only place that’s like this. On any given day, especially around lunch time, the alleys are filled with smokers polluting the air. Any sidewalk that crosses an alley, which is pretty much all of them, subjects every person to walk through a cloud of smoke.

This got me wondering as to who enforces this 6 meter smoke-free bylaw.

I reached out through Twitter and started asking questions, first to the Vancouver Police Department. They responded fairly quickly with this tweet.

I then asked the question again to the City of Vancouver and got no response so I started to do my own research as to who enforces Health ByLaw 9535 s. 2.2.

The bylaw reads as follows:

As this reads, it would be safe to assume that the entire downtown core should be almost entirely smoke free. 6 meters is 20 feet and most sidewalks are less than 20 feet from the building to the road and the doorways from one establishment to another are also less than 20 feet in most cases. Even finding space in a back alley that is not within 6 meters of a doorway or air intake is hard.

In principle the bylaw is great. It explains what “a person” or smoker is not permitted to do but the “enforcement” really doesn’t enforce anything. Other that stating that “a responsible person must not allow a person to smoke”, there is no indication of responsibility for who enforces this, how it’s monitored or any threat of fines. It sounds like it’s the responsibility of everyone to not allow people to break this law.  So are we expected to become vigilantes?

Unless I’m missing something, to me this by law does nothing  to change smokers behaviors. It just says it’s illegal. To the smoker that doesn’t care about their health or the health of those around them, this bylaw is really just a formal way of asking them to please not smoke within 6 meters of a doorway or air intake. The responsibility lies entirely with the offender who really doesn’t care in the first place.

To me this is unacceptable because non-smokers still have to walk through these clouds of smoke, sometimes with kids, getting exposed to second hand smoke and ultimately cancer.

How do we solve this? Who should enforce it? Should the businesses or landlords be responsible?

If the city is not enforcing this bylaw than maybe private security firms like the ones used by the  Downtown Vancouver Association to patrol downtown, could be utilized in a way to help change smokers behavior.

Either way, more needs to be done.

What do you think?

*Update #1

The City of Vancouver responded on Nov 2nd with this tweet which isn’t very encouraging. No tickets and it’s the businesses responsibility.

**Update #2

I tweeted the following yesterday as I heard of a new fines for dog owners that have misbehaving dogs. I was confused as to why our city would spend time and money on peoples pets rather than enforcing the smoking by law.

Well, the city responded and has forwarded my feedback to Vancouver Police. Will be interesting to these where this goes next.