March 29, 2011
First and foremost, on behalf of the City of Brampton, I’d like to welcome each of you here today and thank you for coming out to hear the incredible story that is our city – our Brampton. As Mayor, it is my job to be this city’s greatest advocate – and loudest cheerleader – when it comes to the promotion of our economic development agenda. And that’s what I intend to do today.
We are in the midst of building one of Canada’s most modern, cosmopolitan and culturally diverse cities, and, for business people like you, this presents an incredible opportunity for success here and now. To show you the value proposition that Brampton presents to the ICI community, I want to talk today about four things:
Our competitive climate
Our growth management policies
Our commitment to attracting investment and jobs, and
Our long-term vision for a creative economy
And once you hear what I have to say, I won’t be the only one singing Brampton’s praises.
I want each of you to leave here this morning with a message that you can tell everyone in your network: that Brampton is new address for success in residential, industrial and commercial development in Canada.
Last month, I delivered my annual economic statement to the Brampton Board of Trade, where I outlined Brampton’s rather enviable economic performance in 2010. Most notably for this audience, almost $1.5 billion in construction activity took place in this city last year. That makes us the 7th best performing urban economy in Canada, at a time when the economic pendulum has shifted to the West, towards resource-based development, and away from the manufacturing –based economy of Southern Ontario. But nobody has convinced me yet that our days as the economic heartland of the country are behind us.
As we think back to the start of 2010, you’ll recall that the entire world was still mired in the depths of a global recession, and that, even as late as August of last year, Peel Region’s unemployment rate sat at almost 11per cent. That was just less than eight months ago, and now, buoyed by Brampton’s positive economic outlook, Peel’s unemployment rate is down to 7.5 per cent. That, ladies and gentlemen, speaks to Brampton’s resilience - a central theme in our annual economic development report, which was distributed to you this morning.
New buyers are returning to the marketplace, and this rebounding confidence in the housing market, and a return to a sense of confidence instead of fear, means that Brampton will see a return to robust economic growth in this coming year. In fact, I stand here today more convinced than ever before that we have the potential to lead the country in terms of new employment and new creative ventures, and that Brampton will be a global destination for new business investment in the coming years.
And why do I believe this to be true?
Because in Brampton, we know how to compete.
You know, competing for investment has some similarities to hockey, and those of you that know me, know that I am more than just a fan of the game. Hockey is a game of position, it’s a game of anticipation, of skill, and to win, it demands a commitment to staying in the game, which, in economic development terms, translates to sustainability.
Brampton, like a great hockey player, is more focused on where the play is going to develop, than where the puck is right now. And we’ve worked hard to get to this point. But, before I get into what our municipal government has done, I’d like to talk a minute about Brampton’s obvious competitive position.
Geographically, Brampton is connected to the most advanced transportation infrastructure in Canada. We are only minutes away from Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Canada’s largest airport, which means that business people like yourselves can save both time and money by making Brampton your home base. Canada’s largest rail freight and intermodal distribution terminals, representing both CN and CP rail, are also right here. In a world where the future competitiveness of manufacturing is dependent on linking into the global supply chain, Brampton’s logistics and freight infrastructure present an obvious advantage.
In Brampton, you have access to all of the most important 400 series highways that connect us to our biggest trading partner – the U.S. To put it in perspective, Brampton is only a one-day drive away from 140 million consumers. But Brampton’s competitive position is not just defined by its geographical location.
In terms of our financial position, our local government has worked hard to create a climate in which business can thrive. I’m proud to say that Brampton is one of the best managed and most financially sound municipalities in Ontario, and in Canada. We have the second lowest net tax levy per capita in the GTA. We have no debt. We have an assessment ratio that is better than average when compared with all of the major municipalities in the GTA, and our reserve fund position is extremely strong.
That gives Brampton the ability to respond quickly to opportunities for establishing partnerships and cost-shared programs, like the federal-provincial infrastructure stimulus programs that we took advantage of 2009. Our financial position is one of the reasons why we were able to leverage more than $75 million in stimulus funding from senior levels of government, which is now helping to support critical community infrastructure projects across Brampton.
And, in terms of our population, Brampton will grow by more than 270,000 people over the next 20 years – that’s like adding a city the size of Markham to our current boundaries. That fact alone makes Brampton a good place to be if you are a business that wants to take advantage of a drastic future increase in demand.
But to get back to my hockey analogy, when I talk about being focused on where the play is going to develop, what I mean is that we’ve already laid a foundation for economic success through our growth management plans, and that we are now focused on implementing these plans through City-building.
Throughout my time in office, I’ve always believed that Brampton’s future success as a large, modern, cosmopolitan city would be completely dependent upon the foundation of policies and practices that we, as a municipal government, put in place well before our city’s urban evolution. And so, we did our homework, we spent the time and resources necessary to get it right the first time, and today, as Brampton sits on the cusp of an incredible urban transformation, I am confident that our approach was the right one.
Our growth management plan sets the stage for growth in a way that is environmentally sustainable, fiscally responsible and balanced in terms of the kinds of housing stock and leisure opportunities that new communities must provide. Over the years Brampton has enabled the development industry to provide innovative housing types that are denser and more affordable, and that deliver an efficient use of land. We also encourage a variety of approaches: zero lot lines, zipper lots, Quattro units, and others. And in Brampton, we not only meet, but we exceed the province’s standard for more intensive land use. For example, in our new Mount Pleasant Mobility Hub Community, we plan to accommodate 100 people and jobs per hectare, which is double the provincial growth plan target for new greenfield development. Our growth plan ensures that our community’s quality of life is supported, not hindered, by our development… and that responsible growth is at the heart of everything we do.
Part of our growth management plan is also about setting aside enough land for employment to accommodate the quality of life we’re trying to build here in Brampton. We need to ensure that we can attract the right companies, the companies that can offer high-quality, long-term jobs to support our future and the future of our grandchildren.
To be successful, we know that we must align our residential growth planning with employment growth planning so that people can live close to where they work. That’s not just smart business, it’s also environmentally sustainable, and it makes a world of difference to employees and their families when it comes time to consider if they want to live a commuter lifestyle, or a lifestyle that saves time and energy for themselves, and for the planet.
This past year, we’ve had a lot of success in attracting several new signature projects that meet these long-term objectives. For example, Canadian Blood Services is amalgamating its three existing facilities in Hamilton London and Toronto into one facility in Brampton and Gamma Dynacare Medical Laboratories is expanding its Brampton Head Office.
Plus, some of the most respected names in business already know what we’re telling you today - they’ve already been in Brampton for years - including:
Par-Pak Limited: 2010 Plastics Industry Award winner
Loblaw Companies Ltd.: one of Canada’s Top 100 Greenest Employers
MDA Corporation: best known for its Canadarm on the Space Shuttle, MDA is now working with Sick Kids hospital on projects like a robotic surgical arm for pediatric surgery
And Chrysler Canada has announced its intention to continue to invest in the Brampton assembly operations as the foundation for its rear-wheel platform cars, the 300, the Dodge Charger and the Challenger.
Our economic development plan targets industries and job growth where we think the opportunities to attract new business investment and talent are most likely. We are going after business investment in the industries that will propel future global growth, advanced manufacturing like aerospace and plastics, food and beverage production, biotechnology and information, and communications technology.
We have also restructured our economic development efforts with the creation of a new Advisory Committee.
Called the Business Attraction and Retention Advisory Committee (or BARAC as its come to be known), I have asked a cross section of Business leaders from Brampton to provide our City staff with guidance and suggestions about where and how to focus our resources to make Brampton more visible to companies looking for a new location to build or expand their business. Part of the mandate of that new team will be to oversee and provide guidance to our staff in going after new international opportunities.
As one of the most diverse cities in Canada, Brampton has outstanding potential to reach out and attract business from around the world. Over the next five years we will continue to develop our excellent working relationships with our sister cities, and raise Brampton’s business profile in key global business centers outside of North America. And we are actively planning for a business mission, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, to Brazil this fall. We are also in the early stages of planning for a trade mission to India in 2012.
Our city–building efforts are focused on infrastructure, which is the number one issue identified by business executives in a recent survey by KPMG. In Brampton, we dreamed, funded and built a rapid transit system called Züm, first along the Queen Street corridor and later this year, extending north-south along Main Street, and seamlessly linking Brampton to Mississauga. Plus, the joint Brampton/ Mississauga/Metrolinx plan to build a light rail system along this same Main Street/ Hurontario corridor is well underway, which will attract 100,000 people and 50,000 jobs to that corridor.
Our new Mount Pleasant neighbourhood is now a national model for transit-friendly, mixed-use community development, and that is why we were able to attract $23 million in infrastructure stimulus funding through the Economic Action Plan for this project.
But we know, as blessed as we are with available land and opportune conditions, that we simply don’t have enough land to continue to widen all of our roads to meet the future needs of people and goods movement. Our transportation plans are based on building public transit as a first priority for moving people, increasing the modal share of transit, and optimizing our goods movement systems. We have embraced the notion of an integrated transportation planning system, which recognizes that the movement of people will have to be balanced with the need to move goods that come from all over the world and pass through our inland port here in Brampton.
Just as you cannot compete very effectively if you go onto the ice without honing your skills, at the municipal level, you need a plan to attract world class talent if you want your City to be a success. And, in Brampton, that plan starts with building a new, creative economy.
As I said in my economic statement, we need to shift our thinking away from the notion of our traditional local economy, and start aggressively competing with the best in the world for the jobs of tomorrow, the jobs that will fuel a “creative economy”. We need to embrace the fact that today’s most valuable employment skills are knowledge-based and borderless, and we must commit to encouraging innovation, training and lifelong learning in our community through partnerships between employers and schools, colleges and universities.
Right now, only 30 per cent of Ontario’s jobs are considered creative-class jobs, but they account for nearly half of all wages in the province. What this says to me is that these creative-class jobs are up for grabs now, and as Mayor of Brampton, I’m going after them. I am committed to making Brampton a hub for the province’s creative economy over the next 10 years, and will continue to do everything in my power to attract the companies and jobs necessary to make that a reality.
And, we’ve already laid the groundwork to encourage this shift. That is why I have put so much emphasis on our relationship with Sheridan Institute. Sheridan exemplifies the kind of responsive institution that will drive the creative economy. What this means is that they can custom-design courses of study to meet the needs of employers…in fact, that’s a big reason why Chrysler continues to invest in Brampton. Sheridan’s Centre for Advanced Manufacturing Design and Technology is another reason why Brampton can offer employers access to skills for the future. We have also been responsive to opportunities to attract other educational institutions and private schools, like Algoma University and TRIOS College.
As we consider the future of our local economy, we must continue to focus on building the skills of our workforce, and that is a big part of the City’s strategy to support and attract a creative economy. Because only by understanding the needs of tomorrow, can we build a city with the infrastructure and the opportunities to attract the job of tomorrow and the workforce of tomorrow.
In terms of what we’re doing at the City of Brampton to encourage this shift through our own policies, Council recently recommitted to a new HACE -- Heritage, Arts Culture and Entertainment – strategy. Our vision was that: "By 2016, the creative economy, through heritage, arts, culture and entertainment industries, would be a leading contributor to the economic vitality and image of downtown Brampton as the creative centre of the city."
In other words, pairing the arts with downtown revitalization – a powerful combination!
Brampton’s Central Area has seen almost half a billion dollars in new investment over the past few years. Part of that is attracting a more vertical lifestyle in the Central Area, which is exactly what we need to make our transit system work, and to attract a new generation of homeowners to Brampton.
We have been a designated urban growth centre in the provincial Growth Plan but we have had our challenges in seeing our vision fulfilled. The City of Brampton has gone to extensive lengths to encourage high density development by offering financial incentives to the development industry. But it’s only recently that some new development has taken advantage of those incentives. The economics of the GTA market means that high-rise condo sites in Brampton compete with older more established municipalities, and so the market in Brampton is still maturing.
But that’s a good thing. It means that in the next few years, Brampton’s Central Area is truly going to be the place for new condo development.
Finally, I want to talk a little bit about what I plan to do to foster a new, creative economy here in Brampton.
When considering where to set up shop, business owners and investors want to know that a city’s local government will be responsive to their needs and provide an excellent level of customer service, when called upon. As Mayor, I’m extremely proud to say that this is an area in which Brampton excels, and it is a valuable selling feature of our city. And so, I want to say to those CEOs and entrepreneurs who are looking to find a new place to invest: my door is open. And to those CEOs and entrepreneurs who already call Brampton home: my door is open. If you want to talk about investing in Brampton and being part of the new creative economy, if you want to bring new jobs to Brampton, then I am here to talk to you.
As I mentioned earlier, as part of my plan to bring new investment to Brampton, I am strategically targeting those industries in which Brampton has a competitive advantage:
- Food and beverage
- Wellness, health and life sciences, and
I also believe that holding networking and business development events like these help to spread the message about Brampton, and also facilitates feedback from the business community on what we could be doing better.
I believe that this kind of open, two-way dialogue on the needs of our business community, as we move toward our own creative economy, is what we need more of at the City of Brampton, and today’s breakfast is just the start.
To that end, I am prepared to work day and night with any business owner, or any corporation, that is serious about working together with our local government to deliver the jobs of tomorrow to Brampton. And my door is open to you.
So, to bring today’s breakfast to a close, I think it’s clear that Brampton’s economy is thriving despite everything that we’ve experienced in the past two years, and that our future is bright. At the City, our economic development team will continue to monitor and report back on key economic indicators. This work will help to inform Council’s decision-making as we pursue the kinds of policies and initiatives that will make Brampton a hub for the creative-class in the next decade. I can’t stress enough how important I believe this shift to a creative economy will be for Brampton, and how critical the creation of creative-class jobs is to ensuring a prosperous future for our community.
I said back in December that it is now Brampton’s time for greatness, and I truly believe that. When you look at what we can offer not only our own residents, but also the rest of the world – our understanding of diverse cultures, our unique sense of community and identity, our commitment to excellence – it’s an easy sell.
And so, what I ask of all of you today is that you join me in sharing the incredible story that is our city – our Brampton. Share what you know with your networks, your business partners, your friends and family, so that others can know what we know today.
That we’ve got the plan, we’ve got the land, we’ve got the economic climate, and that it’s our turn.
It’s our time to shine.