Mayor Patrick Brown was elected as Brampton’s Mayor in October 2018 and his first meeting the day after he was elected was with the city’s economic development team. We sat down with the Mayor recently to see how the city’s economic development plans have evolved over the past year.
Brown says that an immediate challenge for council was to address the heavy emphasis on residential land development and lack of utilization of employment lands. He felt at the time that the city was too slow to respond to investment and employment opportunities. It was an arduous process for companies. He says that the city’s focus to bringing jobs to Brampton meant that they needed to fix the fundamentals. Now, there is a system in place for faster response and have staff members assigned to potential investors.
There was also a tax challenge to the cost of locating in Brampton. It was more expensive than other municipalities. For the first time in 19 years council approved a tax freeze. Brown admits that the city is not tax competitive yet but says that progress is being made. Council also approved a more flexible development charge for head offices projects over 50,000 square feet. The Mayor says “this is significant because it allows me to go into a pitch meeting and say you can locate in Brampton and it will be more affordable to do so than Mississauga or Vaughn…we weren’t able to say that before.”
The city brought in Clare Barnett as the new Economic Development Director who Brown says was a star for the province in helping the province run their economic development program.
There have been a number of ground breakings recently including Symphony Condos, 45 Railroad St and large industrial projects including a Canadian Tire distribution centre. The mayor teased saying that “the biggest fish that we’ve been working on you’re going to hear about later… those were pitched meetings that we’ve had in the last six months.” An announcement is expected in the new year in what the Mayor believes to be a “significant game changer for the City.”
So far this year, council has participated in three foreign direct investment (FDI) trips including one with Councillor Michael Palleschi to Boston for the largest Medical Technology conference in the world. A trip was also made to Cologne, Germany to attend the largest food-processing conference in the world. Earlier this month the Mayor was also accompanied by Councillor Martin Medeiros and Councillor Paul Vicente to attend Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon who chairs the city’s Economic Development committee also accompanied the Brampton Board of Trade to a trip to Turkey, and Councillor Charmaine Williams visited Nigeria with the Nigerian High Commission.
While at Web Summit, the delegation from Brampton was able to speak with Paddy Cosgrave who is a co-founder of the Collision tech conference that is now hosted in Toronto. The city will be setting up tours so that investors and tech companies that come to Collision will also have access to tours in Brampton.
The Mayor is clearly excited to tout the Cybersecurity story that is unfolding in the city and is grateful to the Liberal government and corporate partners for coming through when the provincial government made the controversial decision to put funding for a university campus in Brampton on hold. He mentions Hazel McCallion as inspiration for his approach to attracting investment saying that “she had one piece of advice for me when I was taking over as mayor of the city… she said there is a world outside your borders and she was so successful because she went outside of Mississauga and championed Mississauga.” He says it is his job to make the pitch from Brampton.