Mayor Linda Hepner says innovation will take Surrey into the future

GUILDFORD — In a packed room at the Vancouver Sheraton Guildford Hotel Wednesday (May 20), Mayor Linda Hepner shared her vision for Surrey’s future with a crowd of about 450.

In a nutshell, she said her dreams for Surrey centre around innovation.

But first, as she began her speech, Hepner said she wanted to start “by dealing head on with the issue of public safety,” which she called the “elephant in the room.”

The mayor referred to Surrey First’s $21-million crime platform in last November’s civic election, where she promised 147 new police officers over two years. She noted the federal government, the day before her speech, approved 100 new officers.

She said the city is currently hunting for a director of public safety strategies – another election promise – a new person at city hall whose job it will be to integrate the work and programs of police, fire, bylaws and other city departments. She estimates the position will be filled in three to six months.

Hepner said the other big elephant in the room is the transit plebiscite, noting 45 per cent of the plan is for projects in Surrey. She said Surrey’s Light Rail Transit will create 24,000 construction jobs.

But innovation is what Hepner hammered on, touting the success of Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard in city centre.

“In fact the first Innovation-Boulevard-grown technology has already been commercialized. Conquer Mobile’s surgery simulation program moved from idea to product in less than one year. Virtually unheard of,” she said.

She noted just the day before her address, Innovation Boulevard, received $3.6 million in funding for the ImageTech Lab, a world-class medical imaging centre to be located at Surrey Memorial Hospital. It will be a first for Western Canada.

Hepner said the city will now broaden that success into the fields of clean tech, agri-innovation and social innovation.

She said Newton has quickly become a “hotbed” of clean tech innovation, being home to Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre, SFU’s Fuel Cell Research Lab, and more. According to Hepner, Surrey is well positioned to lead in the sector, which is booming in Canada.

She’s dubbed a new initiative “EcoNewton” that will pull together all the clean tech work in Newton’s industrial area to become an “international hub.”

Agriculture was also on Hepner’s agenda.

In partnership with the BC Agriculture Centre of Excellence and universities, Surrey will become a “living laboratory” for agri-innovation, with plans to build a virtual incubator farm. A “biopod” project is also in the works.

Tree-planting work will double over the next four years, said Hepner – from 2,500 trees a year to 5,000.

Cyber security was also top of mind for Hepner, who noted it brings real and costly threats. The city is working with universities at home and abroad to address such vulnerabilities.

The city will also hold its first social innovation summit this November, and a seniors advocate will be appointed at city hall.

Hepner pointed to many projects in the works: a recently completed Guildford Aquatic Centre; a new Grandview pool opening later this year; an East Clayton recreation centre in the planning stages; phase two of Surrey Museum; a new Soccer Centre of Excellence; constructing a new neighbourhood park in Grandview Heights; building a contemporary arts space and gallery in South Surrey; and adding more ice in Cloverdale by working with the YMCA to create another rec centre.

Hepner also announced the city will relocate the North Surrey rec centre and ice arena to King George Boulevard and 128th Street. And it will go to market to see if there’s interest in building a multi-purpose sport and entertainment complex and stadium in South Westminster to revitalize that area.

Hepner also announced a working group has been established to get a Surrey Charter to modernize its governance and relationship with Victoria.

Hepner said this is vital when it comes to running a “modern, growing and smart city.” She hopes to have that work completed by this time next year.

“So ladies and gentleman, it’s been 168 days. Every day has certainly been different. And while I wish I could say that every day was a dream and absolutely perfect in every way, that would be stretching things a little,” she told the crowd in closing.

“But, I can say that every day has had its highlights and its lessons. And every single day, I see opportunities.”

areid@thenownewspaper.com

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