World chooses to live and work in Brampton: Sohail Saeed

April 17, 2013 - News

Special to SAF
The second fastest growing city in Canada is all set to get a new identity and image.
Brampton is growing — the number of new businesses rose by close to 6 per cent from last year — and it was only a matter of time that the city needed to evolve to a new call to action.
Be more…, be opportunistic…, are some of the call to action messages the city is sending out to potential investors and industries to set up shop.
The city has launched its ambitious new Economic Development Brand, a strategy that hopes to attract the best and brightest to its shores.
South Asian Focus spoke to Sohail Saeed, Director, Economic Development and Tourism, about how Brampton became a people-powered economy and why the “world chose to live and work here”.
SAF: What prompted the launch of a brand new strategy and the need for rebranding?
SS: It is pretty much a standard in the industry to re-look at the branding of the city and what direction it is taking every five years.
This is an opportune time to do so because when you look at the population five years ago, it was almost half of what it is today… the biggest growth in the city was from 2006-2011. The makeup of people changed, the businesses that came in changed and the economy became more creative.
We now have medical technology company Medtronic of Canada, Loblaws, Canon, MDA, among others in Brampton.
Some 175 different ethnicities live in this city, they speak 78-plus languages. The world chose to live here and work here. To address these needs and assets, we needed to come up with a strategy that reflects our economy, our businesses, our community and our talent pool.
SAF: Broadly, how will this strategy change the look and feel of the city?
SS: I am an emotional person (laughs). I am so excited about the various initiatives that we have planned. This strategy makes us more forward thinking, creative, more innovative, and that kind of aura comes to the city with this branding.
Brampton is much more than a bedroom community, a residential community… you need to keep up with the times.
SAF: How is it different from the Flower City brand?
SS: Flower City is our heritage… that would stay put, and whatever we do after that is complementary.
Brampton went through four such brand changes (including All roads lead to Brampton, Where is Brampton…here), which have always complemented the heritage of our city.
That (Flower City) is our heart and soul and that would never go. It is a brand that is very much appreciated because there are so many great associations with the flower.
SAF: What was the process of coming up with the new brand and what were some of the key factors that you took into consideration?
SS) The Brampton Business Attraction and Retention Advisory Committee (BARAC) took up this challenge. After rigorous procedures of interviews and stakeholders’ presentations, Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto-based consulting firm that specializes in creating for South Asian markets, was chosen to do the job. They are the ones who created the branding for Zum for us.
So it began with talk about the big buildings, the businesses… then we would reach a dead end because they felt that all that will continue to grow, but what is driving all this?
After talking to numerous people, one thing became evident… that Bramptonians are a proud people. This cultural pride comes all over the world. There is no mainstream in Brampton — the United Nations would be considered mainstream here!
About 8,000 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in Brampton are being run by the local communities… this is truly an example of a people-powered economy.
SAF: Are there any other industries besides construction, that were identified that will serve as economic drivers to energize the city’s prosperity?
SS: At the end of the day, it’s about economic prosperity. Creating jobs and bringing up the quality of those jobs is a primary goal.
It is also about creative economy, more education and more innovation. That links in with the diversity of Brampton where the talent pool is bringing in their international experience. We need to leverage this knowledge.
Speaking of gaps in development, strategy is always based on that. The feeling is that advanced manufacturing, ICT (information and communications technology) are the way to go and that has been my focus this past year and this year.
Food is a big sector too, and advanced manufacturing of food is also on the table for that matter.
There is input from the US, Brazil, India — these are big giants in advanced manufacturing of food.
SAF: Speaking of SMEs, how can the city help someone who wants to begin a start-up here?
SS: We have the Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) who do about 400 business consultations a year free of charge and over a 100 seminars, some of which have a nominal fee.
We have business advisors in our team; we have templates for budgets and business plans. We advise you on the demographic piece, which is crucial in understanding who will you be selling to.
We have one-one one consultations on domestic marketing, backyard marketing, the works. And our commitment is absolute — we will walk down to the restaurants or a business and tell them how they can do it better.
We conduct extensive research with regards to site selection and we have up-to-date information on every site, so if anybody has an enquiry, they just have to call us.
SAF: What are the immediate goals and targets that this strategy hopes to achieve?
SS: With the new branding, our first goal is to get the word out. We have an infrastructure in place; combine this with our connectivity to the GTA and our proximity to Pearson Airport, which connects us to the US via very short flights that makes it a hub for businesses.
Brampton was voted one of the top 10 cities in North America for Foreign Direct Investment and Best Infrastructure, Large City by UK-based FDI magazine. We are also one of the top cities in Ontario that is absorbing a huge number of more educated and ambitious immigrants; and they are leaving everything good behind in their native countries because they want a better life for themselves and their families.
We need to tell everybody out there that there are opportunities here — our neighbours are all saturated now. For this, we need the support of the local population.