Business organizations in Surrey and White Rock are preparing to jump start the local economy when COVID-19 health and safety restrictions are finally lifted.
A newly created Surrey Economic Recovery Task Force is aimed at providing practical back-to-business support and communications for businesses and workplaces throughout the area.
Among the organizations that have signed on are the Surrey Board of Trade, the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce, Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce the White Rock BIA and the Cloverdale BIA – as well as business improvement associations in Downtown Surrey, Newton and Fleetwood.
Represented are more than 9,500 businesses in Surrey and White Rock, encompassing a wide variety of sectors.
Task force spokesperson Laura Ballance said that while social and economic impacts of the pandemic will be profound and long-lasting, “the Surrey-White Rock corridor is a vital component of B.C.’s economy – it has a diversified industry base, which includes the greatest number of manufacturers in B.C., all of which contribute to national and global supply chains.
“We’re looking at ways we can support our businesses across the spectrum.”
She noted that such an unprecedented coalition of groups represents a realization that local businesses – particularly small- and medium-sized companies (which she described as “the backbone of our economy”) – must be “ready to hit the ground running” when government and provincial health authorities signal the time is right for a safe return to work on a more normal basis.
“We are blessed to have great experts who can address the when,” she said. “We have to do our part by addressing the where and why and how.”
And that, she said, includes understanding and communicating up-to-date information on the “protocols and best practices both regionally and nationally.”
Close contact with all members means the task force can also play a vital role in reacting to specific needs of local businesses, she said.
“We can be an important conduit,” she said.
“We can address our businesses on a hyper-local basis – large government is not going to be able to drill down to the needs of members in the same way.”
But Ballance said the task force is not about working “at odds” with government, but rather working closely with all levels in “allowing Surrey’s diverse industry base to be part of the broader solution, and ensuring the strategy and support takes place in a responsible and timely manner.”
She added that she has been heartened by the spirit of co-operation that she is seeing generally among businesses during the current crisis.
“I get to work with a lot of companies, and a lot of very passionate competitors, and I’ve seen a lot of long-time competitors on the same phone calls saying, ‘What can we do to help each other’ – a lot of sharing of information between larger, national companies and smaller regional and local ones.”