We had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Leard as part of our Remarkable Canadians initiative. Amanda is the Manager of Investment Attraction at the City of Brampton and is also part of the InvestBrampton team. In our interview, Amanda shared with us numerous insights that are invaluable to foreign entrepreneurs that are interested in starting a business in Canada.
During the interview, Amanda explains how Brampton supports foreign entrepreneurs and what incentives are available for them. She also provides insights as to why Brampton is so attractive for foreign investment and what companies have already built their foundations in the city.
We would like to thank Amanda Leard for providing our audience of foreign entrepreneurs with invaluable advice and education! Below is the video of the interview and the text of some of Amanda’s responses that we’d like to share with you.
If you’re thinking of coming to Brampton to run your business, please feel free to contact Sobirovs Law Firm and/or Amanda Leard directly.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role as a Manager, Investment Attraction with the City of Brampton.
Thank you. I am a proud born and raised Bramptonian. With more than 15 years of municipal and economic development experience, I currently manage the City of Brampton Investment Attraction Team, mandated to drive inward investment both domestically and globally into Canada’s fastest growing City. I am a participant in the University of Waterloo’s Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC) certification program, and a member of the Economic Development Council of Ontario (EDCO). I am a passionate and proud, Bramptonian, and continue to call it home, raising my three boys and my husband in one of Canada’s youngest, most diverse and fastest-growing cities.
For those who have never seen Brampton, how would you describe it? What features set Brampton apart from other places in Canada?
Brampton is the fastest growing city in Canada, with a population of just over 650,000 people. By 2040, our population will be almost 1m (900,000). But the numbers only tell part of the story. Diversity is woven into every aspect of our way of life, whether it is food, art, festivals, business or investment. Brampton is truly a living mosaic, represented by a young, diverse workforce with 234 cultures, speaking 115 languages.
This is significant, it makes us a unique location in comparison to other cities. In fact, 50% of new immigrants in Brampton are under the age of 24! We are one of the youngest cities in Canada, with a median age of 36.4 years. Brampton has a very large South Asian community, and we celebrate our unique cultural identity. In fact, the top 3 languages spoken in Brampton after English are Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati.
So why is this important to your business? Having access to a diverse workforce is an asset for both businesses and their employees, in its capacity to foster innovation, creativity and empathy in ways that homogeneous environments seldom do. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between high-skilled immigration and an increase in the level of innovation and economic performance in cities and regions.
Brampton truly is an ideal location to Live, Work and Play. In fact, Brampton is ranked as one of Canada’s Best Places to Live – based on a Canada Liveability study by ReMax. Brampton’s residents have access to more than 850 beautiful trails and pathways, lush green spaces, shopping amenities, including retail, restaurants and hospitality businesses along with a quality interconnected public transit system.
Brampton residents also benefit from Canada’s Universal Healthcare program, a strong public education system, and economic and cultural diversity.
The community is highly saturated with health, wellness and recreational amenities in close proximity to residential neighbourhoods.
Brampton is designated as a “youth-friendly city” by providing continuous access to leadership and engagement opportunities for youth in the community.
What a foreign business owner should expect to see in Brampton?
Brampton benefits from a strong and diversified economy. This has proven to be vital during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our economy has shown great resiliency, especially in the areas of Advanced Manufacturing and Food and Beverage Processing.
Our four major sectors include Innovation and Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, Health & Life Sciences (MedTech) and Food and Beverage Processing.
We are focused on growing sub-sectors including cyber security and Medtech, with all of these supported by our robust logistics sector and sustainable supply chain.
Cyber Security reaches across all our sectors, and we are building a cybersecurity hub as part of our Innovation District that will set us apart from other big cities. Our strength in Logistics is what underpins and supports our entire economy.
What businesses are booming in Brampton?
Brampton is proudly home to major leading international companies including Rogers, FCA (Chrysler), Coca-Cola, MDA, Medtronic, Canon Canada, IT Weapons (a division of Konica Minolta). Brampton really benefits from a diversified economy, and that’s why these top companies call it home. In fact, I’d like to share a quote from Rogers, one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, and Brampton’s biggest employer. Sandra Pasquini, the Vice President of Human Resources Consumer & Digital at Rogers Communications has said “Brampton is this diverse and multicultural community that attracts people from all over the world and that actually plays out really well for us when we think about the high performing technical workforce that we attract and we retain”. I think this really speaks to the benefits of having your business located in Brampton.
What does the geographic location of Brampton give to businesses in terms of market access, connectivity and distribution channels for their products?
Brampton is centrally located in the Greater Toronto Area, within the Province of Ontario, in what we call the Central part of Canada. One of the greatest logistical advantages for Brampton is our connectivity and market access. We are one of the most connected cities in North America!
Brampton is actually the closest Downtown to Canada’s largest international airport, Toronto Pearson.
Through international free trade agreements (CUSMA, CETA, CPTPP), setting up a business in Brampton gives you the advantage of accessing over 300 million people in the USA and half a billion people in Europe and a total of 1.5 billion people worldwide!
We have access to transcontinental highways reaching 158 million consumers and other major markets.One of our most valuable assets is being home to CN – Canada’s largest Intermodal Terminal, servicing over 2,000 trucks daily from its 195-acre multimodal facility located in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area supply chain corridor. Both the CN Intermodal Terminal and the CP terminal (located on Brampton’s border) provide direct access to the Asia-Pacific Gateway through the quick and efficient import of container goods coming via rail from Vancouver and Prince Rupert maritime ports. They also connect to the US through Detroit and Europe via the Montreal port.
What support and services does your office offer to foreign businesses who are considering establishing a presence in Brampton? Could you please give us some past examples of such support given to foreign companies?
Absolutely! Our Economic Development Team provides support services including site selections, research and data requests, introductions to industry associations and partners including our post-secondary community. We also provide introductions to local service providers. It is important to note that the City of Brampton is a designated referral partner for the Global Talent Stream program.
The GTS, part of Canada’s Global Skills Strategy, is an immigration program that allows Canadian employers to expedite the hiring of foreign workers to fill specialized occupations when Canadians aren’t available for specific roles. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada aims to process Global Talent Stream work permit applications in only two weeks, making the program the fastest immigration pathway for workers seeking a new life in Canada.
How InvestBrampton can practically help foreign businesses to relocate to Brampton? Is there some kind of monetary help for those who have decided to establish a business in Brampton? Any past examples?
Thank you for asking this question. Incentive programs work differently here than in other parts of the world like the US. We rely on our provincial and federal partners to provide the majority of incentive programs available for new investments.
However, The Province of Ontario’s Planning Act allows local municipalities to designate an area as a Community Improvement Project Area offering financial and non-financial incentives to the private sector to create employment opportunities and amenities needed for a growing City. In Brampton, we are able to offer a Community Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP is designed to stimulate employment growth, support new building expansion in targeted sectors, and strengthen Brampton’s local economy.
Among the potential tools to be offered under the CIP, the initial incentive will be a Tax Increment Equivalent Grant (TIEG) aimed at attracting office employment including complementary uses such as research and lab space. The TIEG is a grant, or rebate, to offset a portion of the property tax increase the business owner will face.
We also offer a CIP specific to Brampton’s Central Area. The Central Area extends along the Queen Street corridor in the centre of the community, generally between McLaughlin Road in the west and Bramalea Road in the east. This corridor also incorporates and links the contemporary shopping-center core of the Bramalea development area with the historic core of Downtown Brampton.
The Central Area Community Improvement Plan (CIP) establishes a toolbox of programs designed to support specific planning objectives by aligning financial incentives with the identified planning goals. Individual incentive programs are established when needed by way of approval of Implementation Guidelines and corresponding budget.
Specific to our Downtown Core, we offer a Façade Improve Program to improve the overall quality of building facades in the program area and support the ongoing revitalization efforts of the historic downtown area, by helping to create an attractive place for people to work, live, be entertained, shop and undertake business.
Finally, we have our Development Charges Incentive Program. This program seeks to support intensification and mixed-use development in targeted areas within the Central Area, by providing relief from City Development Charges. The level of DC reduction is established by way of a scoring system. The higher the project scores against the set of criteria (location, preferred type of development, high-quality physical environment, community benefit and sustainability) the greater the discount.
There is also support for smaller-scale adaptive reuse along Queen Street West in the Main Street North area, as well as support for reuse of upper floor space in the historic commercial core.
It’s important to note, as a non-financial incentive, Brampton is one of the very few municipalities in Canada to offer the role of Expeditor as part of their economic development services. The Expeditor and the Investment Services Team provide one-on-one assistance to help guide investors through the development process.
There are some federal and provincial grants and funds. Will InvestBrampton or affiliated organizations help newly established Brampton-based companies to apply for these grants/funds?
Yes, we often connect companies looking to expand with our provincial and federal counterparts to ensure they are directed to the appropriate group so that they can apply for grants they may qualify for.
Just to clarify, a foreign business first must establish in Brampton and become a Canadian incorporated business before it can apply for such grants and incentives? Is that correct?
For Brampton incentives, you must have a business address in Brampton. To apply for other grants, you must be registered in Canada and/or Ontario.
Can you give us some data related to how many foreign businesses moved to Brampton in 2020-21 and what is their composition in terms of size and industry sectors?
Absolutely! Due to the growth of our Innovation District, we have seen several foreign companies move to Brampton to start their Canadian and in some cases, North American presence. We are seeing a lot of interest from technology companies that are looking to access the incubator and accelerator programs within the Innovation District, including:
- Altitude Accelerator – a specialized business incubation and accelerator space with specialized resources for companies working in the areas of Internet of Things, CleanTech and Advanced Manufacturing.
- The Founder Institute is a global accelerator firm that provides support to high potential, early-stage companies through specialized programming, training courses, access to funding and introductions to a world-class mentor network.
- The Ryerson Venture Zone (RVZ) is a start-up pre-seed incubator led by Ryerson University Modelled after and part of Ryerson University’s world-renowned Zone Learning network, RVZ is a pre-seed, non-equity incubator dedicated to building high-performing founders and growing early-stage technology startups into market-ready ventures.
- The Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst helps companies seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges of cyber security through collaboration with industry, governments, and academic partners.
- The Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst Cyber Range and Accelerator is one of the only Cyber Range in Canada and delivers cutting-edge, interactive cybersecurity training for those entering or looking to expand in the cyber field.
- And finally, Brampton BHive! This is an international incubator that focuses on the Start-Up Visa program and provides a soft landing space for international companies looking to set up in Canada.
In addition, these companies are looking to access our exceptional talent pool. Brampton has a really unique workforce advantage. Our location at the center of Canada’s Innovation Corridor (North America’s 2nd largest technology cluster) gives us the opportunity to attract talent from both Toronto and Waterloo. As part of the GTA, employers here have access to 30% of the University students in Canada.
We are within a one-hour drive of 21 post-secondary institutions, including the University of Toronto, McMaster University and the University of Waterloo. Brampton’s Sheridan College is home to the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies, and Magna’s Skilled Trade Centre which links companies of all sizes to Sheridan’s expertise in advanced manufacturing to solve real-world business issues.
This gives us an abundance of talent, especially in the STEM field. It is also important to note that Brampton has lower labour costs across all sectors relative to those in the rest of the GTA, which has given us an advantage over other neighbouring jurisdictions when foreign companies are looking to expand to this Region.
What has been done to support the local businesses during the pandemic?
We have done everything in our power to support our Brampton business community during the pandemic. Local businesses play a key role in Brampton’s economy. At the onset of COVID-19, the City of Brampton formed an Economic Support Task Force to support businesses as they navigated through the impacts of COVID-19. Some of these initiatives have included:
The Support Local Program was developed to encourage residents to Shop, Eat, Gift and Support Local.
Our Brampton Entrepreneur Centre supported the local business community by providing a Rapid Test Program. This program allowed small to medium-sized businesses in Brampton to access free COVID-19 rapid screening kits.
In addition, our Economic Development Office has Sector Managers assigned to each of our major industries. They have assisted Brampton businesses with accessing provincial and federal Covid-19 relief services and participated in advocacy efforts related to the challenges businesses were facing as a result of the pandemic.
How do you imagine Brampton after the pandemic? What has changed and what will change in your estimate in terms of running a business in Brampton?
I think we have learned how important it is to have a highly diversified economy, and how important new investment is in economic recovery. In response to the pandemic, Brampton developed its Economic Recovery Strategy, aiming to bring resiliency and competitive advantage to the Brampton economy. As part of our strategy, we have identified key cornerstones including Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship, Arts, Culture & Tourism; Talent & Diversity, Infrastructure and Investment
I’d like to touch on two of those specifically today:
One of the cornerstones identified is Infrastructure: The City of Brampton will be moving forward with short and long-term infrastructure projects to help stimulate economic activity and position projects that can take advantage of federal and provincial stimulus funding.
The investment cornerstone will address the “new normal” that is being created throughout the economy will provide opportunities as companies review, and potentially restructure, their operations and supply chains.
We were one of the first cities in Canada to successfully execute our FDI Strategy, by moving all engagement to virtual, including conducting Virtual FDI Missions to Japan, Germany, the US, Nigeria and the UK/Ireland, which is actually happening virtually this week! We have seen great results and engagement from these virtual missions and will continue to look for ways to build a virtual presence along with in-person opportunities where travel can be done safely.
The City of Brampton can seize these private-sector investment opportunities by supporting our local companies as they adapt to new realities, building on our strategic advantages like logistics, and looking internationally for companies that would benefit from investing in Brampton.