The Surrey Board of Trade is disappointed that the City of Surrey’s recent decision to pull out of the Metro Vancouver Regional Prosperity Service, a regional economic development organization, made without consultation with commercial and residential taxpayers and other organizations affected by this decision. As a result of this decision, Surrey will no longer be represented on this strategic economic development entity.
The Regional Prosperity Service was an initiative to which the Surrey Board of Trade was an original founding partner, through the Regional Economic Advisory committee, led by then-Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore. Like many similar global regional entities, the Regional Prosperity Service was a strategic way to collectively brand each of Metro Vancouver’s member city’s regional economic development assets, globally.
“What benefits one city in the Metro Vancouver region, will benefit all, through job creation and industry expansion through global partnerships,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.
“The City of Surrey is leaving Surrey out of the Regional Prosperity Service and their global business attraction strategy. As businesses face added bottom-line costs, strategic consultation with the business community was needed prior to making this important decision”.
“Surrey is going to be the largest city in BC by 2030, and to withdraw from the region’s economic development strategy, to leverage our industrial lands and other assets to attract industries such as film, technology, manufacturing, agri-tech and more, is not the pathway towards economic recovery.”
“The Surrey Board of Trade also calls for a revitalized Surrey Economic Plan through consultation and engagement with Surrey businesses. We need an economic plan to maximize partnerships.”
The purpose of the Regional Economic Prosperity Advisory Service is to:
1. Provide a forum for senior representatives of economic development, long-term planning services of member jurisdictions, as well as similar staff from provincial and federal ministries and agencies and Indigenous organizations with an interest in the economic prosperity of the region to discuss and advise on issues related to economic development and strategic investment;
2. Facilitate the exchange of data and identify areas of research and analysis; and,
3. Provide advice on how the Regional Economic Prosperity services can best support cross-regional collaboration and amplify the economic development initiatives of member jurisdictions.
The major advantage of a regional approach is that communities in the Metro Vancouver region can achieve more and attract greater global interest and economic benefit by working together. Regional economic development officers allow for increased coordination and communication, resulting in more efficient use of resources. Regions are able to pool and leverage limited resources to ensure the broader region is appropriately served and promoted. The City of Surrey, by leaving the process, will lose this vital opportunity and involvement.
Due to an increasingly competitive global economy, the efforts of smaller urban centres to engage effectively in attracting, retaining, and expanding business now demands a level of resources and marketing that is often not achievable by individual municipal governments. In recent years, communities across BC have demonstrated considerable success in fostering economic development through more integrated, regional approaches. This was evident when the communities of Surrey, Vancouver and Richmond (and their respective Boards of Trade/Chambers of Commerce) worked together to create meaningful results on economic development approaches, utilizing global partnerships and connections to create investment opportunities throughout BC.
Some concerns that might be raised when evaluating involvement in a regional economic development agency could include: possible loss of local capacity to attract business unilaterally; or, the inability of a municipality to craft homegrown economic development strategies. Further, the perceived potential for increased bureaucracy arising from employing this regional economic development model has led some to question its appropriateness as municipal authorities work to avoid budgetary waste wherever possible; however, these potential limitations are more than offset by the numerous benefits. These include:
• a more robust and effective ‘face’ for the global promotion of the region to prospective external investment;
• expanded resources and expertise to pursue (and provide to) business;
• increased capacity to create economic development plans that benefit the entire region;
• improved access by business to information, facilitation, legal and arbitration services; and,
• enhanced ability to develop long-term, multistage and/or cross-sectoral business development plans.
To greatly enhance Surrey’s capacity to seek new opportunities and investment for the region, it is clear that the City of Surrey, by leaving the Metro Vancouver Regional Prosperity Service, will create a division among regional municipalities with slower and less certain results for Surrey, with less value per dollar compared to an integrated regional approach. Given the proven successes of similar regional economic development organizations globally, it is clear that the numerous benefits of this approach can be achieved with minimal loss of municipal control and without the need for expanded or costly bureaucracy. The Surrey Board of Trade recommends that serious reconsideration be given to the City’s participation in the Regional Prosperity Service. Our common goals to attract, retain, and expand business and economic investment in the region demands a united approach to economic development, greatly enhanced through pooled resources and expertise, particularly moving forward post COVID-19 recovery. Surrey needs to be a strong voice driving regional economic growth and can show leadership on this regional initiative.