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Vancouver and Surrey among top FDI cities in Americas: Financial Times

Vancouver is top large city while Surrey is eighth best mid-size city.
Central Surrey is under constant construction now, as it implements new plans to densify a new regional downtown core.

The Financial Times has ranked Vancouver as the Americas’ top large “City of the Future” for foreign direct investment, while Surrey scored an eighth-place designation as a mid-size city.

The Americas Cities of the Future 2021/22 awards, issued this week, ranked the top 10 cities in five categories based on population: major, large, mid-size, small and micro. The Times shortlisted 210 cities and analyzed their economic data for five categories: Economic potential, business friendliness, human capital and lifestyle, cost effectiveness and connectivity.

Vancouver nudged out second-place Seattle, Washington and third-place San Jose, California, for overall honours and ranked highest (first) in the “business friendliness” category and second for “economic potential.”

The FDI intelligence report noted, “almost 36% of Vancouver’s inward FDI projects in the period analyzed were in the software and IT services sector and the city ranked first in North America for high-tech software job growth in 2020.

“That same year, Amazon announced it would add another 3,000 jobs to its Vancouver technology hub.”

Meanwhile, Surrey scored ahead of Birmingham, Alabama, (9th) and Winnipeg, Manitoba, (10th) in the “mid-size” city category won by Mississauga, Ontario.

Both cities ranked in the top 25 for “FDI strategy” (Vancouver, 18th; Surrey, 24th).

According to a City of Surrey statement on the rankings, “The City’s vision is to become the regional nexus for commerce and a nationally recognized centre for innovation. Despite the pandemic, the City’s Economic Development division has attracted over $26 million in capital investments and created 250 jobs in 2020.”

Among the larger developments in Surrey is an under-construction warehouse larger than that of Amazon’s B.C. hub in Delta.

The massive $190 million, 470,000-square-foot complex, dubbed the “World Commodity Trade Center,” is a joint venture between a Chinese state-sponsored company, with direct ties t the Chinese Communist Party, and a local development firm. 

The goal of the warehouse is to orient B.C. exports toward China. Its location between the region’s ports and the U.S. border was a selling point to the developers.

Likewise, Surrey scored its highest points for “connectivity.”

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum welcomed the ranking.

“We’re proud that Surrey continues to be a world-class city for investment and innovation,” said McCallum in a statement.

The city noted the rankings are based on the Financial Times' benchmark and foreign investment markets tools, which analyzes quality and cost competitiveness of the cities across 700 data points. FDI strategy accounted for COVID response initiatives as well. While Surrey was the worst health region for outbreaks in B.C., the city initiated a personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing program to bolster domestic production.

The top “major” City of the Future was New York.

“The top 10 Americas Cities of the Future are all North American, proving the region has fared better overall during the pandemic and is well positioned to experience a faster recovery. These results reflect a broader reality regionally in the context of Covid-19 and beyond,” noted the Financial Times.