SURREY — The City of Surrey has moved the sixth annual Regional Economic Summit to next spring because it hasn’t yet found speakers.
Usually held in the fall, this year’s summit is now set for February or March, said summit chair Coun. Linda Hepner.
“We had originally been looking at Hillary Clinton, but she’s not doing government speaking roles for probably her own political (reasons),” Hepner said Tuesday.
When that didn’t work out, organizers went back to the drawing board.
The city is working on several other potential speakers, but isn’t ready to say publicly who they might be, Hepner said.
“We’re trying to put together a pretty aggressive program and it’s going to be really exciting. I’m just not at liberty to say who that might be now.”
Hepner said it’s a challenge to top previous summits after exhausting many world leaders. Past summit speakers have included former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson and former British prime minister Tony Blair.
“It’s tough to keep raising the bar because we’ve set the bar so high,” Hepner said. “We want to make sure that what we’re bringing to the city has some strong economic picture, because that’s what it’s all about, but also has a very global perspective. Those speakers, and lining them up, it takes a bit of strategy and time, and we want to make sure it’s someone that the sponsors would be interested in contributing to, because we don’t use taxpayer money for it.”
In 2012, the City of Surrey apparently spent roughly $420,000 for Branson’s appearance. The city’s 2012 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report revealed Surrey paid the London Speakers Bureau $419,767.13 for the rebel billionaire to speak for one hour.
In 2011, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke at the summit, and the city’s SOFI report said the price tag for the two was more than $300,000.
Donna Jones, Surrey’s manager of economic development, has said that booking fees are paid for with taxpayer dollars ahead of time, but they are recouped through ticket sales and sponsorships.
Tickets to the 2012 summit were about $650 a pop.
In a letter to the editor to the Now in 2012, Mayor Dianne Watts said that the economic summit has grown into “one of the most significant business and economic conferences in Canada and is a big part of our city’s brand as we work to attract jobs, investment and business to our city to ensure continued prosperity.”
With files from Jacob Zinn
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