Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner

Surrey mayor stresses innovation, addresses ‘elephant in the room’: Crime

Linda Hepner gives her first State of the City address at the Sheraton Guildford

In her inaugural State of the City address, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner outlined a vision of hope and promise to a crowd at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel.

Hepner told the crowd today (Wednesday) she looked forward to getting caught up and explained her plans for the city over the next year.

The theme of her speech was largely centered around innovation, pulling from the burgeoning success of Innovation Boulevard.

Innovation Boulevard is a partnership between the City of Surrey, Simon Fraser University and Fraser Health to create a high-tech health area between the three entities in North Surrey.

It’s already taking off.

Hepner said she wants to build upon that success by using several similar models elsewhere in the city.

Plugging into the city’s rich network of academics, clinicians and businesses can jumpstart and accelerate commerce in Surrey, she said.

Hepner said the Innovation Boulevard concept can and will be used to create hubs of clean tech, agriculture and cyber security.

Clean tech (environmentally friendly technology) is one of Canada’s fastest-growing sectors, she said, adding Surrey is well-positioned to lead globally.

She said the city recently recruited the Foresight Cleantech Innovation Centre  to locate in Newton, Last month, the federal government announced $2 million in federal funding for Foresight for its clean technology development.

She noted 10 per cent of B.C.’s clean tech companies are already located in Surrey.

But innovation doesn’t stop there, Hepner said.

California’s ongoing drought situation is an indicator climate change has profound effects on food security.

She noted that one-third of Surrey’s land base is agricultural and said the city can be part of the solution.

In partnership with the B.C. Agriculture Centre for Excellence, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, SFU and BCIT, Surrey will become a living lab for agricultural innovation, Hepner said.

There are plans to create a virtual incubator farm, which would serve as a portal for aspiring farmers to find services and sources of information gathering.

Most importantly, she said, it will identify land upon which they can farm.

Innovation will also be part of a cyber security initiative Surrey is undertaking, she said.

Breakdowns in cyber security are costing governments and businesses fortunes. Surrey will be working with Israel’s Ben Gurion University as well as top companies, locally and abroad, to better understand the issue and find solutions.

After highlighting plans for a bright future, Hepner also addressed what she called the “elephant in the room” – crime.

She said statistics show Surrey is a safe city, but she acknowledged that people don’t feel safe.

During last year’s election campaign, Hepner promised 147 more officers on the ground. She says they’ve been ordered and will arrive within the next year.

Surrey will also be developing a neighbourhood policing model, working closely with communities, and will hire a director of public safety strategies.

Hepner also listed some of the large construction projects under way, including Guildford pool, Grandview pool, East Clayton recreation centre, an expansion of the Surrey Museum and a soccer centre for excellence.

She also said the city is looking for an investor who will build a multi-purpose sport and entertainment complex in South Westminster (northwest Surrey).

She also plans to create a cultural corridor from Newton to South Surrey along King George Boulevard.

It’s been 168 days since Hepner was elected mayor and each day has been different, she said. Not every day was “absolutely perfect in every way,” and each had its lessons.

“As your mayor, I know how far we have come and how much further we can go,” she said. “We have the imagination and drive to see what we have going for us, and then work to shape our city into something remarkable.”