After the BC government announced this week that there will officially be no 10-lane bridge to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel, at least one major company is considering moving its headquarters out of Richmond due to consistent and increasing traffic woes.
In an interview with Daily Hive, London Drugs CEO Clint Mahlman said his company has been “voicing concern about issue around this area for over 18 years to various politicians of various political stripes.”
Now, with a decision on the tunnel delayed yet again, Mahlman said London Drugs is mulling moving its almost 900 person-strong headquarters out of Richmond as a result.
“Part of our frustration is that various governments have made decisions to put major port facilities such as Deltaport and Surreyport south of the Fraser, but not the infrastructure to properly service those areas with trucks and vehicles,” he said.
As a result, “we’re starting to lose employees and we’re also building in a lot of unnecessary costs as our inbound and outbound trucks are sitting idle and having difficulty accessing the area, and that puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”
And it’s not just on the sales end of things either.
“We’ve lost a couple people just in the last couple weeks due to commuting issues, so when the current government made its recent announcement to further delay any decisions, it just requires us to do prudent business planning and figure out what our alternatives are,” said Mahlman.
Calling it distracting, and noting that an undertaking of this sort isn’t something he or his company want to do, Malhlman said the preference would be to stay in Richmond, “but there’s little belief that things will actually change in the next several years, so we have to figure out a solution for our employees, and a way to reduce costs for our customers.”
One of the biggest issues Mahlman would like to see alleviated is the “access onto Highway 99 that backs up into our industrial park.”
On certain nights, he noted, “it can take some of our staff as much as 45 minutes to move one kilometre out of our industrial park.”
Beyond the day-to-day issues and traffic frustrations, Malhlman said he’s also unsure how having so much industrial traffic and passenger traffic sitting idle on either side of the tunnel, “reconciles” with the government’s recently announced CleanBC plan, “which talked about reducing industrial pollution and getting people out of cars.”
Move would be “multi-year process”
As for the timeline on an undertaking like this, Malhlman said it would be a multi-year process.
The London Drugs distribution centre is one of the largest in BC and the Lower Mainland, and along with the head office is home to 888 employees,” he furthered. “We have very complex IT systems and very complex warehouse systems, so this is not something you just pick up and move in a few months.”
Noting that the company has not yet identified any potential new locations, Mahlman said that for now, “the energy will be going into seeing what options are available – including staying in Richmond – which is our first preference.”
And there would be requirements for a potential future location to be suitable, he noted.
This would include things like close proximity to a major transit location, relatively easily accessible areas, “and of course, affordability comes largely into it.”
He said the company has also offered “many ideas for short-term solutions to both the city, the ministry: things like changing policies around delivery times of trucks, so they could be delivered after-hours – not just for London Drugs– but all over the Lower Mainland.
This he said, would help relieve “the primary pressure during peak times,” adding that this strategy was employed during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and is used widely in Europe.
Ultimately though, Mahlman said the company would love to stay in Richmond, “but we have to do this planning at this point, because we just don’t see a solution coming forward and based on the history, a decision that’s reliable will come forth in the future.”