Advance Wire's corporate sales representative Russ McKinlay explains the company’s history to participants on the tour.

Advance Wire's corporate sales representative Russ McKinlay explains the company’s history to participants on the tour.

Business leaders get look at local industries

The name of the company may be Advance Wire Products Ltd., but unless you’re in the industry – or venture past the suite of offices on 24 Avenue onto the immense production shop floor – you probably wouldn’t know it’s a leading producer of display structures for retailers and such grocery chains as Safeway, Overwaitea, Thrifty Foods and IGA.

Getting to know what such Surrey companies do was the point of a bus tour of local industry organized by the Surrey Board of Trade last week.

At Advance Friday, 33 business people and international representatives had an up-close look at the automated cutting of sheet metal, bending of wire parts and vacuum-forming of plastic components at the busy plant.

The same morning they also visited the Honeybee Centre in Cloverdale, Endurance Wind Power in South Surrey and the River’s Bend Winery on Colebrook Road; before meeting a second Board of Trade bus tour (covering such North Surrey locations as the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre, SFU Surrey, Nav Canada and the Russell Brewing Company) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where all 71 participants heard an address by Mayor Dianne Watts.

The purpose of the second annual Industry Tour was two-pronged, board CEO Anita Patil Huberman told the Peace Arch News.

“One goal is building awareness among people in Surrey to be aware of how much industry is taking place here,” she said.

“The other is to invite people from outside Surrey who may be interested in expanding industry here – there is available land to develop, while in Vancouver they are only able to build up.”

The group touring the Advance Wire plant, for instance, included the consul general of Costa Rica, the vice-consul of Indonesia, a representative of the Canadian Council of the Americas, and also the Mexican trade commissioner for B.C., Alaska and Washington State – as well as local business people interested in a closer view of Surrey’s industrial base.

“I’m quite active with the Surrey Board of Trade, and I find such tours interesting and beneficial in growing my business,” said tour participant Gary Gallant, senior cruise and travel consultant for Expedia Cruise Ship Centres.

“It’s a good way to get to know some of the major businesses in the municipality.”

Advance corporate sales representative Russ McKinlay explained to the group that while the company started in 1953 as a wire manufacturer, it has since grown into its role as a manufacturer of store fixtures for the grocery and retail industry.

Operations and product development director Bruce Davis told the Peace Arch News the company, which has acquired its own metal cutting and plastics pressing equipment to save costs of buying materials elsewhere, is still in a process of evolution to capture new markets.

Although he acknowledged the grocery and retail trade is still the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the business, he said the company is moving into supplying pre-fabricated products for the building industry.

“We’re a very highly automated operation and we work on a lot of prototypes of things,” he said.