The President & CEO of i-Open Technologies Inc., has a Vision for East Fraser Valley region; Mr. Szabada is the Founder and Chairman of the Board for The Sumas Regional Consortium for High Tech, responsible for the development and driving of the Vision forward as related to Technology driven Economic and Educational development of the Region.
The way Ray Szabada sees it, the similarities between California’s Santa Clara Valley and British Columbia’s Fraser Valley are striking and very much worthy of attention. “Geographical proximity to a major and exciting city”, he says. “Climate, transportation links, much easier access to an international airport, lifestyle – all very similar. But there’s one aspect where we’re not similar at all, and that’s a huge advantage for us. Affordability!”
Santa Clara Valley? Why should Ray care? Because in November 1971 a small emerging company called Intel created the world’s first microprocessor, and everything changed for this bucolic suburban area south of San Francisco. The term “Silicon Valley” was first published in the fledgling Electronic News, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ray is not trying to create a second Silicon Valley here. That would be wishful thinking. In the words of Ethernet co-inventor Robert Metcalfe: “Silicon Valley is the only place on Earth not trying to figure out how to become Silicon Valley”. But he does believe that a portion of the industry and wealth spawned by Silicon Valley can be lured here if the right conditions exist. He has the credentials to know what he’s talking about, he says, “but the trick is to get past the idea stage by creating an action plan. Of all the Fraser Valley communities, Mission is the perfect place to begin”. So what are the first steps in the process, and what is the final vision? Ray spells out the plan. “The final vision would be to have a substantial employment base with ICT (information & communication technology) companies”, he says. “A mix of research and development companies along with some high tech manufacturing. But of course we need a starting point, and the model for that is the proposed Regional Tech Centres of Excellence (TCE’s) that will house: ”.
- Innovation and Incubation
- Research and Tech Transfer
- Skilled technical education and training
Says Ray Szabada: “As you can see, to be successful this kind of project requires initial buy-in from a municipal government and a local university. Here in the Fraser Valley, SRCTec, has developed a proposed framework for the first TCE in Mission. But any commitment will require financial investment by the municipal government – fortunately an investment that will pay for itself many times over the life of the project. You have to give emerging technology companies solid reasons to locate here. You also need more established companies on board to fund the operating costs”.
With assistance from the SRCTec group, Mission School District has launched its new entry level ICT trades program at Mission’s Riverside College; This is the first of many initiatives the consortium plans to implement in the valley, all designed to generate skilled technical workers and support for local innovation and research.
At its March 21 meeting, the Mission Economic Development Select Committee approved a motion to proceed with the Technical Centre of Excellence business plan. Part of this work will be to identify sources of funding and potential partners for the venture. Interested individuals or organizations are encouraged to contact Mission’s economic development department for more information.