Why Langley is B.C.’s dark horse

(L-R) Mark Warawa, MP, Langley-Aldergrove; John Aldag, MP, Cloverdale-Langley City; Scott Johnston, partner, CBM Lawyers and president, Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce; Rich Coleman, MLA, Fort Langley-Aldergrove; Mary Polak, MLA, Langley; Jack Froese,

The Langley Regional Airport is recognized as a centre of excellence for helicopter and aviation business

The agrifoods sector is one that is experiencing constant growth in Langley

With a growing population, a strong economy and a City and Township made up of leaders, innovators and committed residents, Langley is setting the model—and pace—for what a thriving community should be

For any municipality, sustainability and economic advantage means evolving beyond the status of a traditional bedroom community to becoming a destination in its own right. In the case of Langley, it has long outgrown its reputation as a satellite city of Vancouver and is now recognized as being a coveted place in which to live, work and play.

While affordability and an abundance of development opportunities continue to fuel Langley’s remarkable growth, civic leaders are committed to scrupulous planning to shape and guide that growth, as well as to preserve the attributes that have always made both the City of Langley and the Township of Langley desirable destinations.

It’s not an easy task, however, considering an additional 108,700 people will move to the Langleys by 2036. But if policy-makers in the City and in the Township have anything in common (above and beyond sharing one Chamber of Commerce, which promotes a unique working relationship) it’s a well-honed ability—and determination—to enact the necessary change to support the economic, social and environmental interests of the communities.

When corporate and real estate lawyer Scott Johnston and his wife, Tamara, decided to leave high-priced Vancouver for a better place to raise their family and grow his business, they quickly focused on Langley.

“Tamara was skeptical and my colleagues thought I was crazy for considering the Fraser Valley, but the more we did our research, the more Langley checked all the boxes,” recalls Johnston. “It [Langley] had the amenities we needed, and it had a terrific mix of an urban core, suburbs and country living.”

Moreover, Johnston’s practice in Vancouver, like many others, was seeing a growing number of clients locating south of the Fraser River. So moving to where the action was just made a lot of sense.

“Langley’s population growth rate over the next 20 years is 119 per cent, or double the present population. For someone in my profession, that is gold.”

That was five years ago, and today Johnston says, “not only has my practice grown, there’s a tremendous feeling that we’ve got everything we need right here, united by a palpable community spirit.”

So committed is Johnston to Langley that he became president of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, which represents over 950 local businesses and is devoted to growing the economy.

As Johnston’s example demonstrates, the reasons to move to the Township (which comprises the bulk of Langley at 121 square miles) or the City (four square miles within the township and comprised of a distinct and busy downtown core) are many.


The Township, which is where Langley gained its reputation generations ago as a rural mecca and Horse Capital of B.C., is considered the third-fastest-growing municipality in the province. Moreover, it saw 1,735 housing starts in 2015 and has an estimated 6,000 licenced businesses in the community. In terms of business levies, the Township is one half per cent below average for light industrial, one per cent below average for the Highway 99 corridor and two per cent below average compared to municipalities west of the Port Mann Bridge.

Affordable housing plus excellent employment and education opportunities continue to fuel growth throughout the Township, whose population is about 116,227 and will be 211,000 by 2041. 

“Our growth is guided by enormous community input, with a sharp eye towards what has worked and could have worked better in the past,” says Township mayor Jack Froese.

As for the City, whose population will swell from 26,000 to 38,000 over the same time frame, its dramatic development almost speaks for itself, with the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz brands spearheading its auto dealership corridor, and Cactus Club and other powerhouse businesses dominating the newer retail portion of downtown. The beauty of this growth is that it’s not happening at the expense of the City’s older urban core, which allows the area to retain its small-town charm— a place where boutique, trendy and long-time local businesses not only call home, but thrive.

“Although we’re limited in space, a lot of our growth is made possible by the brownfield redevelopment,” says the City’s mayor, Ted Schaffer, adding that the City is a net importer of workers, giving it one of the highest ratios of jobs to population in the Metro Vancouver area.

Lynn Whitehouse moved to Langley in the early 1980s, initially for its affordability, and soon got involved in community causes to the point where she became Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce’s executive director in 1985.

“Our growth began in earnest after Expo ’86, and one of our major priorities back then was creating bus routes to connect people in outlying areas to services in our more central locations,” she recalls.

Other achievements during Whitehouse’s reign at the Chamber include saving the Aldergrove border crossing (which greatly improves the flow of traffic at the Pacific Highway and Peace Arch crossings further west) and making possible the construction of the Golden Ears Bridge, which vastly accelerates the flow of goods and services across the Fraser River.

Whitehouse says one of Langley’s early distinguishing features was the willingness of government representatives at all levels to work with the Chamber and various regional business associations. “In this regard we were a united front and could enact positive change very quickly, and that is still the case today.”

Fortified by unilateral support, smaller organizations such as the Downtown Langley Business Association, whose 2.6 square-kilometre jurisdiction includes up to 650 businesses, has over the years fulfilled its mandate to beautify the downtown core and help companies thrive.

The association’s executive director Teri James says, “One of the most attractive things about the City of Langley is the streamlining between permit and inspection, as well as the huge resources available to businesses. Setting up shop is as easy as finding a storefront and taking out a license.”

James adds that reasonable lease rates have led to a pleasing mix of not just big-box/big brand retailers to the north of downtown, but eclectic shops and one-off upscale boutiques in her jurisdiction.

Both the Township and City strive to ensure that good-paying jobs are close to home, and in this regard a healthy job mix is key.

“We have tremendous economic diversity,” says Val Gafka, the Township’s senior manager of corporate administration. “The warehouse sector is growing, as are agrifoods, retail and health care. The film industry has developed a strong relationship with the Township: it’s an industry that invests some $30 million annually in our community because, apart from great locations, we’re a one-stop shop for permitting. Another niche sector in the Township is heli aviation. Our Langley Regional Airport is considered to be the second largest rotary-wing airport in North America.”

The City is no less proactive in attracting business: it was the first municipal government in Canada to enter into a business deal with the Bank of China, and more recently it discussed investment opportunities with representatives of Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. It is constantly nurturing critical infrastructure, and for its efforts it has earned three consecutive Open for Business awards from the B.C. Small Business Accord.

As the Langleys prepare for further growth, the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce welcomes a new executive director, Colleen Clark, who is already working with her board to realize a variety of goals, from lobbying to stop banks from charging Visa card fees (which imperils business due to companies like Wal-Mart no longer accepting credit card purchases from customers) to making Aldergrove a 24-hour border crossing.

“For a long time, Langley was the best-kept secret in the region, and now it’s a place of opportunity, recognized provincially and nationally,” says Clark. “We face an incredibly exciting future.”