Theme 4: Sustenance Economy to Commercial Centre

01 Oct 2020

This theme focuses on the ways in which Coquitlam's economic history and diversity has grown and evolved over time.

The Kwikwetlem First Nation utilized the abundant rivers, floodplains and hillsides around today’s city to hunt, fish for salmon and eulachon and gather medicinal and food plants.

From its transformation as an early mill and forestry town to a major regional centre, diverse economic opportunities have included hunting, food gathering, trapping, fishing, logging, sawmilling, agriculture, gravel mining, small businesses and retail. Coquitlam's evolving contemporary economy includes its emergence as a regional commercial and corporate centre and its filming and tourism potential. All of these economic endeavours have influenced the form and character of today's city.

Agriculture and Food Production

Coquitlam’s warm summers, mild winters and fertile soil were factors that provided land highly suitable for farming. From large farms such as Colony Farm, the family-owned Booth and Brehaut farms and the Whiting and Pollard greenhouses, to smaller-scale homestead farms and family garden plots, Coquitlam has sustained itself agriculturally throughout its history. Most Coquitlam families had fruit trees and vegetable gardens in their back yards or cultivated a designated allotment nearby. There were Chinese market gardens, ubiquitous poultry farms and mushroom and strawberry growing operations. The Poirier Street Farmers Market, established in 1996, is the longest running suburban farmers market in the Lower Mainland.

Immigrant Contributions to Local Economy

The Canadian Western Lumber Company, known as Fraser Mills, became one of the largest sawmill enterprises in the Commonwealth and Coquitlam’s first and major employer.

Immigrants have long been a part of the work force in Coquitlam. Until 1909, many of the mill’s labourers were of Chinese, Japanese and South Asian descent who faced discrimination in the workplace and in the community. As a result of race riots in Vancouver, Fraser Mills management provided incentives for French Canadians to relocate to Coquitlam to replace the mainly Asian work force subject to severe discrimination.

Retail and Shopping

From the 1940s to the 1970s, Coquitlam developed into a shopping mall destination, contributing to its suburban character. The Cariboo Shopping Centre, Lougheed Mall, Westwood Mall, and the 1979 Coquitlam Centre drew shoppers from all of the neighbouring communities, reinforcing the area as a major centre. Tourism Coquitlam is a key supporter of the city's economy, through entertainment, dining and retail, Town Centre Park, Silver City Cineplex theatre, cultural events such as Canada Day and Festival du Bois and arts and outdoor activities.

Modern Enterprise

While Coquitlam is still primarily a residential suburb, new economic opportunities are arising through the development of City Centre and enhanced transportation options. Some large industries remain, including gravel extraction, wood products production, wholesaling and warehousing, and transportation and trucking, while new and exciting initiatives include major mixed use development, Qnet, and major headquarters and employers. Today, the Kwikwetlem First Nation operate successful entrepreneurial projects such as the Kwikwetlem Business Park and KFN Enterprises LP, economic development initiatives committed to promoting self-determination and long-term growth of the Nation.

Story image: Richard Whiting in the family greenhouse on Rochester Avenue, 1922

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