At Invest Surrey, we believe in showcasing the diverse and innovative businesses that call our city home. Foreign direct investment plays a crucial role in developing vibrant, resilient economies by bringing in new jobs, skills, and technologies. Today, we’re excited to highlight Garaventa Lift, a historic example of successful FDI that has grown in Surrey, its North American headquarters for over 40 years.
Founded in Switzerland in 1928, Garaventa Lift has grown into a global leader in accessibility solutions, with over 100,000 lifts installed worldwide. Recently named one of Metro Vancouver’s top 30 largest manufacturers by Business in Vancouver, Garaventa Lift’s success exemplifies the opportunities for foreign companies to thrive in Surrey’s business-friendly climate.
“We are proud of what we have accomplished together and are more motivated than ever to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” the company shared on its social channels.
From Mountain Tramways to Global Accessibility Pioneer
Garaventa Lift’s roots trace back to 1928 in the Swiss Alps, where founder Karl Garaventa constructed his first aerial tramway for logging. In the 1970s, Garaventa won the contract to build the iconic Grouse Mountain Skyride in Vancouver. The area’s natural beauty and economic potential made such an impression that the company decided to establish roots in the region.
After the Vietnam War, Garaventa Lift shifted its focus to accessibility solutions, identifying a critical need for veterans returning home with disabilities. Garaventa Lift recognized that those who had fought for their country deserved to live normal lives, and they were determined to provide solutions that would enable them to do so.
In 1978, Garaventa installed the first residential wheelchair lift in North America, over a decade before the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated accessibility.
Acquired by the Savaria Corporation in 2018, the combination of Savaria and the Garaventa Lift Group created an industry leader offering a global distribution network and one of the most comprehensive portfolios of accessibility products available today. Over its 40+ year history in Surrey, Garaventa Lift has pioneered industry innovations that have had global impact.
The Power of Universal Accessibility
At Garaventa Lift, accessibility is recognized not just as a business opportunity, but a human right. As Trevor de Jaray, North American Sales Manager (Trac Products), points out, “When you have disability access, you have all access.” Proper accessibility planning benefits everyone, from seniors to parents with strollers. Garaventa’s lifts have enabled generations of people with different abilities to live more independent and connected lives.
“Creating accessible worlds has been part of our core for a long time,” shared Constantine Nip, head of Marketing and Sales. Legislation promoting accessibility, like the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, has boosted Garaventa’s sales. But more importantly, these policies have had tremendous social impact. In Garaventa Lift’s view, Canada still has some work to do in improving accessibility standards nationwide.
As a global company, Garaventa Lift has keen insight into how cultural norms shape accessibility needs. According to Nip, “In Europe, people will call for a lift but never mention they are in a wheelchair. 'I don't need a wheelchair product,' they say.”
You've got price points, you've got codes, you've got regulations and then you've got cultural attitudes,” de Jaray added. By understanding these diverse perspectives, Garaventa can design solutions tailored to local markets. The company’s global workforce lends critical knowledge of nuanced cultural expectations.
Custom Built Products with Worldwide Impact
Over the years their product lines have grown just as impressively as their reputation. Choosing to invest in an accessibility solution is not something one takes lightly, it’s a big investment and it’s imperative that design process, installation, and reliability and service are exceptional.
As no facility or individual’s needs are the same, neither are their products. Every single design project is custom made, after a free on-site expert consultation to ensure that installation is right for the clients needs.
Garaventa Lift’s infrastructure enables accessibility at the world’s highest profile venues and events. For instance, their lifts have provided universal access at:
- Beijing Summer Olympics & Summer Paralympics
- Vancouver Winter Olympics & Winter Paralympics
- Wimbledon Tennis Court (UK)
- White House & Capitol (USA)
- Madison Square Garden (USA)
- Sacre Coeur Cathedral (France)
- Burj Khalifa (U.A.E.)
Beyond making the world’s most noteworthy buildings more accessible, Garaventa Lift enables universal public access by installing elevators, lifts, and ramps in transit hubs, government buildings, retail spaces, schools, universities, churches and places of worship, and other facilities used by people in their daily lives.
Choosing Surrey as a Strategic Global Hub
Although courted by other cities, Garaventa Lift purposefully chose to remain and grow in Surrey. Access to border crossings and the port were key, as was Surrey’s cultural diversity and skilled labour force.
“We build cool stuff that makes people’s lives easier,” a sentiment embraced by de Jaray highlights how the company has been able grow an excited and dedicated team from the region’s tapestry of talent. On a given day may have over 200 people reflecting over 15 different languages on the floor at any given time. All of this allows them to be successful and understand different cultures and markets around the world.
Expanding within the Campbell Heights industrial park allowed Garaventa to develop a new 150,000 square feet state-of-the-art manufacturing center leveraging the area's prime amenities. Campbell Heights offers excellent transportation infrastructure, including direct highway access and proximity to rail and air cargo. The area is emerging as a major industrial hub in Metro Vancouver.
Accelerating Global Innovation in Surrey
For over 40 years, Garaventa Lift has brought talent, innovation, and global connectivity to Surrey. The company's continued growth as an international industry leader highlights Surrey's advantages for foreign direct investment.
Are you a globally minded business looking for opportunities in Surrey? Get in touch with our team today.