Surrey is a city in transition from a suburban past to a sustainable urban future. On this road, it seeks to leave behind a reputation for sprawl, crime and limited economic potential. Home to some of the richest and poorest neighborhoods in the region, Surrey is building an innovation-based knowledge economy offering a much broader range of local opportunity.
There is no lack of potential in Surrey: it is Canada’s third fastest-growing city, which welcomes 1,000 new residents each month and where residential construction is a major industry. It is part of the growing metropolitan area of Vancouver, from which it derives most of its economic energy today. To gain greater control over its destiny, Surrey has developed a diversification strategy calling for deepening the partnership between its institutions of higher learning and local business. Development is focused on an Innovation Boulevard project, where the city, universities and business are building clusters in health technology, clean tech and advanced manufacturing. Overseeing the project is the Mayor’s Health Technology Working Group, comprised of 50 representatives from universities, a health authority, nonprofits, business associations, government and developers. Ten new health technology firms have already moved in, attracted in part by the availability of five new advanced laboratory spaces. It is one component of a master plan to create several dense and walkable city centers supporting a mix of residential and commercial space linked by light rail.
Smart and Sustainable Plans
Surrey’s past was enabled by the automobile. A new Sustainability Compact, developed with substantial public consultation, aims to change that dynamic by focusing on emissions reduction and thoughtful adaptation to climate change. The city has achieved a 70% waste diversion target ahead of schedule and completed a district energy system for city buildings and future high-rise residential towers. A range of smart-city systems, from a central traffic management center to the MySurrey App, are improving livability and better engaging with citizens. And for those on the wrong side of the digital divide, the library system is training thousands of residents in digital skills as part of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan. Surrey’s goal is to boost local employment by nearly 50%, which will keep more wealth in the community and better balance the tax burden between residents and business.
Brain Gain: How innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption
In their third book, ICF’s co-founders take on a central issue of our time: how to balance two essential demands of the Digital Age economy – innovation and employment – to create communities that thrive. Brain Gain: How Innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption is a survival manual for cities and regions on how to build economic prosperity and meet social challenges in an age of technological change.
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