The Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT) has been playing a major role in building the city as a major business hub. The Board’s CEO Anita Huberman in a quick Q&A points out the Board’s role and Surrey as a developing business hub
We are a not-for-profit organization operating in Surrey for almost 100 years. Our mandate is to support businesses and bring more business into Surrey. It represents 6,000 member contacts, and over 60,000 employees, representing 2,200 businesses. We offer value in terms of providing support services for existing businesses to increase their client base. We are also a government advocacy lobbier. We try to amend legislation, create new legislation to make sure that the economic climate to do businesses is improved. We are an innovative public policy solution provider and a destination for networking with other members of Surrey’s regional business community. Its association with a network of Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade around the world – in this 450 year old industry – gives us a uniquely credible voice.
What is the major contribution of Surrey Board of Trade towards businesses over the past few years?
I think two — the Board has really focused on enhancing business connections locally and internationally. The second achievement is that we are known for our ability to help create by-laws to instigate change.
Surrey is a growing business community but every time it hits the media headlines for all the bad reasons, how do you feel?
I really don’t like how the media portrays us mainly as a crime city. Crime is borderless. It happens in all the big cities. Every city has its good and bad side but media continually focuses on Surrey at front page with shootings and gang violence. Vancouver’s Eastside never hits the headline this way. There are so many fantastic things happening in Surrey around infrastructure, technology, innovation and industrial development.
Does this stereotypical image creates hurdles in the brand image?
It does especially when we are trying to attract businesses in the city. There are challenges but I think we have done amazing work to build the city. We want to bring in more quality jobs. Our strategic plan is to create cohesive focus on branding and attracting business to this city.
How have the businesses grown over the past few years?
The city has developed industry clusters, especially in the past five years, around clean technology, manufacturing, health and education. These hubs have helped in creating innovation and entrepreneurs that did not exist before. The industry cluster around universities is helping to promote entrepreneurial efforts by our youth.
What has been the contribution of the South Asian community towards business growth?
A third of Surrey’s population is South Asian. I am South Asian too. Really in a way they are very entrepreneurial. They have done a lot in building the community. They are involved in the city at political and municipal level to get things done.
What are some unique aspects of the city of Surrey for businesses?
We are a border city. We have two access points to the US. We also have an international docking facility where we bring in goods from all over the world and people can also export things manufactured here locally. A third of its population is under 19 — that is where the human capital is in terms of skilled labour or labour to be trained. It is a multicultural city where people speak more than one language beyond English. That in itself brings different creative ideas.
Is Surrey recognized as a business destination in international markets?
The brand itself is Vancouver in international markets. When we go internationally they still don’t know what Surrey is. It is an opportunity and a challenge for us at the same time. That is why we are really focused on the whole regional and economic development. But we have to do a better job in promoting Surrey as a destination in international trade market.
What’s the strategy?
We are in the midst of finalizing our next global trip to increase that awareness especially with their Chambers of commerce and boards.
By Surbhi Gogia