A local group is finalizing a plan that could see a high-technology business park take flight at Abbotsford International Airport.
The Abbotsford-based Sumas Regional Consortium for High Tech (SRCTec) has already identified a 7.2 acre parcel of land off Mount Lehman Road which it hopes will house the new Abbotsford Technology Park.
Situated on airport land, the 120,000 square foot facility would focus on businesses with an aerospace or health care focus.
Raymond Szabada, SRCTec’s chairman and CEO, told the Abbotsford News that an expression of interest for the land will be forwarded to airport manager Mike Pastro in a matter of days.
And should all go well, he hopes a leasing deal and a more detailed plan for the site will be finalized inside six months.
The not-for-profit SRCTec has been working since 2006 to secure a future for a business park in Abbotsford to house companies with a high-tech focus.
“Just to build that (park) will bring a tremendous amount of traction for this region. It will bring jobs and investment. With what we are trying to initiate, there has to be a start and this is a start,” Szabada said.
“We have been at this for a year and a half and it now feels like we are almost there.”
The Abbotsford Technology Park, Szabada explained, will be the first of two phases and focus on attracting “small and medium-sized businesses” that specialize in information technology, information services and telecommunications/wireless technology.
Once phase one is complete, and Abbotsford and the rest of the region has developed a reputation as a strong base for high-tech businesses, Szabada said SRCTec will work alongside internationally-recognized companies to attract them to the Fraser Valley.
Describing the airport site between Mount Lehman Road and Firecat Avenue as “ideal,” Szabada stressed that his group has not yet been awarded the land.
But should that happen, Szabada said there will major benefits for aviation businesses to have their operations so close to the airport.
There has already been a “tremendous amount of response” from potential tenants from both Abbotsford and other Greater Vancouver communities, he pointed out.
Pastro described the proposed business park as “very exciting.”
“They have come to us with a concept and we are supportive of that concept,” he said. “It will bring development to the airport and would generate jobs.”
Pastro said he is awaiting the formal expression of interest, at which point he said further details could be discussed.
Negotiations would then take place between SRCTec, airport staff and the Abbotsford Airport Authority, he explained, with any building application going to council for final approval.
“It’s important for the airport to develop a diversified base of aviation companies,” he continued.
“I think it’s good news for the airport and good news for the city. It’s very exciting.”
Szabada said he and the rest of the board have worked tirelessly for the past 18 months.
And despite hitting some roadblocks at city hall, he said Abbotsford Mayor George Ferguson and airport representatives have all expressed their support.
Meanwhile, he said SRCTec is working with Simon Fraser University, UCFV and School District 34 to determine how the new enterprise could provide educational opportunities.
There are a number of benefits to having high-tech businesses in Abbotsford, according to Szabada, not least because they are considered “clean” and less harmful to the environment than many other forms of industry.
By creating jobs in technology, he said people with those types of skills will be able to stay in Abbotsford rather than have to move to Vancouver or California’s Silicon Valley.
The group has secured the services of Giffels Management, according to Szabada, who he said will build the facility at no cost to the city.
And having spent the past months expending a “tremendous amount of personal resources,” the businessman said he and the rest of the board are happy to see their efforts paying off.
“We are not going to go away and we are going to make this happen,” he said.
“We have struggled somewhat but I think we have gained a tremendous amount of credibility with organizations that share our vision.
“It (the technology park) is not going to cost the city any money but will provide dividends for many years into the future.”
SRCTec is inviting members of the business community to an official launch of the vision for the Abbotsford Technology Park at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. The event will be staged in the Coast Abbotsford Hotel and Suites, 2020 Sumas Way.
by JOHN VAN PUTTEN / The Abbotsford News