Surrey Board of Trade CEO talks about developing a creative Surrey


Anita Huberman has been the CEO of The Surrey Board of Trade for seven years. “The Surrey Board of Trade speaks for the business community at public hearings and to the media. It is a recognized voice of business,” she says.

The organization is committed to developing local businesses by attracting new companies and by putting into action strategic plans to address local businesses issues. It is a not-for-profit organization that advocates locally, nationally and internationally.

In a Q&A session, Huberman outlined the Board of Trades’ ideas about the development of a creative economic sector in the city. Some questions were collected from the message of the president of The Surrey Board of Trade, Bijoy Samuel.

João Correa: Can our Surrey achieve new standards of economic vitality and livability that are equal to or beyond that enjoyed by other successful areas?

Anita Huberman: Absolutely. Surrey right now is growing by 1,200 people a month. Also, around 40 per cent of its half-million population has a mother tongue other than English. It’s a very multicultural community.

What we’re trying to accomplish is partnering between private sector and public sector to bring in businesses in order to create well-paying jobs. We want the residents to stay here in Surrey to live, work and play. We’re making sure that our city is focussing on social policy issues, so that we feel safe in our community. We want to reduce crime, reduce homelessness and poverty, working not only with local government partners but also provincial and federal. Those are all of the factors that are needed to create a livable city.

JC: One of the main goals of the organization is to attract businesses to the city regionally, nationally and internationally. How do you manage that?

AH: The Surrey Board of Trade itself is a not-for-profit organization partnered with different offices in different countries as India, China and Brazil, for example. We also work with connections that we have on our board.

We have a long way to go. Surrey is a city of small- and medium-size businesses. This is where entrepreneurialism is, this is where innovation happens, and we’re not a head-office destination but there are certain advantages for us to say to a B.C. company, “This is where the human talent is, because we’re growing by 1,200 people a month, we have two universities here.”

So we’re all working together, education, business, and government, in order to make sure the foundations exist, in order for us to attract businesses.

JC: Speaking specifically about the creative economy now. Since the last Creative Economic Summit in June, what has been done?

AH: There’s a proposal right now to build a performing arts centre on the south end of the city to be able to mix some of the objectives we spoke about at the event on June. We’re trying to get that passed throughout the local government level. But the key thing is we’re focusing on space.

Also, in conjunction with that, I sit on the National Film Board and part of the objectives is developing our film production capabilities. But there’s some government advocacy that needs to happen in order to Hollywood or Bollywood, for example, be able to produce their films here without the heavy tax burden. We’re losing some of their films to Ontario, where they do have a very attractive tax model for film production. These are concepts that we’ll dialogue about on the second event on Nov. 27.

JC: Do you think it’s possible to have a creative Surrey? 

AH: Absolutely. But I think there are needs to be a commitment between the private sector and the public sector. We need the creative sector to be entrepreneurs; they cannot only rely on government grants in order to survive. They need to think like entrepreneurs.

So it is possible. Other cities have done it and we’re learning from them. Building a creative economy from ground zero is what we’re doing here in Surrey and we have long ways to go. But these dialogues sections with an action plan at the end are the beginning.

Joao Vitor Correa

Journalism student from Brazil; passionate about writing, photography and videography.

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