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Connecting People, Places & Economic Opportunities

April 3, 2013

Surrey – As Surrey evolves into the second metropolitan centre of the region, the City will focus on generating new economic opportunities, fostering innovation and enhancing connectivity, announced Mayor Dianne Watts in her State of the City Address today.

“We have a vested interest to ensure that we are building economically, socially, environmentally and culturally vibrant communities,” says Mayor Watts. “The City of Surrey has repeatedly been ranked one the best places in the country to invest. But we can’t stop there, we have to continue to plan for the future and create new opportunities for our residents and our City.”

She adds, Surrey has the lowest residential taxes and second-lowest business taxes in the region. Last year, more than 2100 new businesses opened and $1.3 billion in building permits were issued. Since 2005, 15,000 new businesses have opened and the city has seen $11 billion in construction activity.

In order to spur growth in the health technology and research sector, she announced the new Mayor’s Health Technology Working Group. It will be Co-Chaired by Mayor Watts and Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, an SFU Neuroscientist and newly appointed Research Chair for Multimodal Technology at Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH).

The group is comprised of a wide range of community leaders, including SFU Surrey, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, UBC, Fraser Health, Lifesciences BC, BC Technology Industry Association, and the development community.

The group will help shape and enhance the newly-named Innovation Boulevard, which runs from SMH to SFU Surrey and includes180 health-related businesses.

“We want to harness new opportunities in the health technologies industry, which is worth about $300 billion a year. We have state-of-the-art health facilities and the brightest minds at work in Surrey. Innovation Boulevard will connect the dots and build a world-class centre that will enhance patient care and propel economic growth in our city.”

She adds the City will also look at expanding the Canarie fibre network from SFU Surrey down Innovation Boulevard. This ultra high-speed fibre optic digital infrastructure is highly coveted in the health technology and research community.

The City will develop new strategies to foster growth in the aerospace industry. Surrey is currently home to about 25 manufacturing companies and several affiliated companies that form a critical link in the aviation and aerospace supply chain.

In addition, the City will focus on leveraging new opportunities in the arts and culture sector, as well as the sport tourism industry, which account for over $1.8 billion of B.C.’s GDP.

The Mayor announced the next phase in the City’s community consultation program, a long-term, online initiative with BC-based technology company Vision Critical called City Speaks: Your Surrey, Your Say. It’s a new opportunity for the City to bring the public into the decision-making process in a more accessible way – via computers, smartphones and tablets. It will allow people to provide ongoing input regarding policies, programs and plans for Surrey.

"The City of Surrey is one of the first municipalities in North America to undergo such a comprehensive online consultation process. We believe that connecting and engaging our citizenry is the cornerstone of our service, but we know people lead busy lives and can’t always attend open houses, public hearings, or other information sessions. We want people to have their say, on their time, and the information we gather will help shape the future of our city.”

She adds the City is hosting its first-ever Community Summit on April 6 which will be another new opportunity for the City to connect with the community.

She renewed calls for better transit service in Surrey and urged the Provincial government to fix the TransLink governance model and change the Provincial legislation to allow for a sustainable funding solution to be developed.

“Not having rapid transit infrastructure is a significant problem for shaping and growing our city. We have to plan for growth, connect our communities, create pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods, and plan for future economic growth.”

The City contributes an estimated $144 million each year to TransLink, including $40 million in property taxes. There has been no rapid transit expansion in Surrey for 19 years. Of the 80 kilometers of rail rapid transit in the region, less than six kilometers is located in Surrey and South of the Fraser River.

The City wants to build an at-grade Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, and construction on the first line could begin within two years if funding was available. Mayor Watts announced that a grassroots community coalition has been formed to help advocate for LRT.

“Our goal is to densify our town centres and connect the city to our downtown core, which is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Through the Build Surrey program, we’ve attracted $1.3 billion in residential and commercial development to City Centre. I believe that reflects a collective confidence that will benefit the entire city.”

She said the City will move forward with the significant infrastructure projects included in the Build Surrey program, the largest construction and investment plan in the city’s history. Construction continues on the new City Hall, community plaza and district energy system in City Centre, as well as the Guildford pool and Grandview aquatic centre. The design process is underway on the new South Surrey arts centre, Newton fitness facility, Fleetwood community centre addition, and Clayton Heights recreation centre.

The City is also enhancing connectivity by building new walking, cycling, and greenway infrastructure, which link the town centres to the 8000 acres of parkland and 900 acres of urban forest in Surrey.

She highlighted some of the significant accomplishments over the past year, including the new waste management system which diverts waste from the landfill by separating organics from garbage, and includes an entire fleet of compressed natural gas collection trucks. Thanks to the efforts of residents, the City has achieved its 70 per cent waste diversion target and is saving $3 million a year in operational costs. The next major step in the program is to build Canada’s largest organics biofuel facility, which will process organics into a renewable fuel. It is expected to be operational by 2015.

Mayor Watts says she will continue to advocate for students in Surrey to ensure the Province builds new K-12 schools to address overcrowding issues, as well as new post-secondary spaces at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and SFU Surrey to fill the increasing demand.

“As Surrey evolves and transforms, we will continue to affect change and implement relevant public policy which moves our city forward in a thoughtful way. We need to ensure that we foster new investment, become more effective in the way we deliver services, and create safe, vibrant communities.”

For more information:

City Speaks: visit: www.surrey.ca/cityspeaks
Community Summit: visit: www.surrey.ca/engagement
Build Surrey Program: http://www.surrey.ca/plans-strategies/8627.aspx

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Media Contact:

Tara Foslien
Senior Communications Specialist
Office of the Mayor
604.375.4584