City of Brantford Economic Transformation Video
Published on July 28, 2014
In this video, City of Brantford Mayor Chris Friel talks about the transformation of Brantford over the last few years through the entrepreneurism and investment of small- and medium-sized companies and post-secondary institutions.
Six businesses and one university are featured with a number of business owners talking about their decision to take advantage of Brantford’s prime location, the support of the City staff and government, the workforce and the quality of life.
Click to view the City of Brantford Economic Transformation video on the City's YouTube account
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Mayor Chris Friel: I am Mayor Chris Friel from the City of Brantford and what I want to talk about is the history as well as the future of our community.
Our history has been one of entrepreneurs and family businesses grown into empires across generations. The community has completely reinvented itself. It’s been a remarkable transformation from top to bottom and one of the driving forces of that transformation is a return to a sense of entrepreneurism and we’re seeing it in small and medium sized businesses coming to our community.
Scott Lyons: I’m Scott Lyons; I’m President of a company called Extend Communications here in downtown Brantford. We’re a telephone answering call centre, an outsource call centre company so other organizations will hire us to man their telephones, maybe man their emails 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or whenever they’re not able to do it themselves.
In the call centre business, I mean our staff are our biggest asset and we have to put a lot of resources into staff. You know we spend well over 60% of our revenues on staff. We really want to keep our employees at the top of their game, make sure that they enjoy their workplace and they’re comfortable here. We’ve got all kinds of personal space for the staff and they really love it.
You know what? We’re in the telephone and customer service business and when you are talking to somebody on the phone you can tell if they’ve got a smile on their face or not and we want people to know that our staff sure do.
We had sort of made our decision that we wanted to invest downtown and I guess when rumour sort of started to get out that we were going to be relocating here the City actually approached me and said, hey Scott, we hear you’re thinking of investing a lot of money in a new building and fixing it up, we’ve got programs, we’ve got grants and incentives for you to help you improve the building and we really want to work with you cause we’re excited.
The City, the Economic Development Department, the Downtown BIA which is an independent group but they’re all very, very proactive and everyone’s excited about Brantford downtown.
There’s all kinds of stuff to do here in Brantford, The river is a great resource for canoeing. It’s one of the best fly-fishing rivers in all of North America. We’ve got a great trail system for hiking and biking and there are all kinds of events and special things going on all around the year. Harmony Square is a great new resource downtown and it’s a great place for staff to live and it’s a great place to raise a family.
We are within an hours drive of an incredible amount of population but with the 403, access to the 401, highway access, rail, even access to airports, everything that you need by way of transportation for business is readily available, it’s right here. And we are better situated than any other city in southwestern Ontario guaranteed.
Ralf Jung: My name is Ralf Jung; I am from Germany basically from the area of Cologne. Together with my wife Jacqueline, I own a group of plastic converting companies in the food service business.
The company started in the late 20s. We started in Brantford about a year ago and the plan is slowly growing step-by-step developing the North American market, or at least a part of the North American market, Canada and the US. from this site. Brantford specifically is quite well located between the borders of the US and Toronto so in terms of logistics, it’s very well situated.
The City welcomed us in a very, very friendly way and made it easy for us to find a good location and a good opportunity to start our business. The staff we got into within the factory was very well educated and the first steps were very easy for us. The team is very, very engaged.
The processes in Brantford are very business friendly so these companies that are coming in from Europe that might not know, we’re walking them through the process, we’re taking care of everything, we’re dealing with the levels of government. Our desire, our job, is to get these companies functioning as quickly as possible within our community and make it as pain free as possible.
Garnet Lasby: My name is Garnet Lasby; I am the President of Massilly North America. Massilly is a family-owned fourth generation company controlled out of Europe. We run the Massilly North America facility here out of Brantford, it is the only facility we have in North America.
We are a full service metal lithography centre. So we take sheets of steel, very thin gauge steel, we apply coatings so that the steel doesn’t rust when you make it into a cap or a can. We apply printing so that it looks good on the shelf and then we take those sheets of printed metal and we stamp them out into the caps in vast quantities.
We were in a leased facility in Mississauga, we were growing very fast, we needed more space and a permanent home. So when we looked across the realm at the relative value of property, because we really wanted to own our facility to have excess land to be able to grow into, the economics couldn’t be beat, the location as far as where we send our products is exceptional because we are close to all of the major highways that head directly into the Eastern United States and across North America.
We brought over 85% of our existing staff with us. Either folks who are commuting or who chose to relocate to Brantford because again the economics of real estate in Brantford are much more attractive than they would be in some of the other areas closer to Toronto.
The feedback from our employees who have re-located to this area has been exceptionally positive.
When we moved we added three additional production lines to our existing five and we have scheduled to add another line in this fiscal year. So the move to Brantford has really been a great lever for us to be able to continue our growth trajectory unencumbered by the capital restraints that might have been presented elsewhere.
The folks at the City of Brantford, particularly in the Economic Development Department, were exceptionally helpful and that help came in the form of providing the information we needed about Brantford, about the workforce, about alternatives that were available both here and elsewhere to educate us on why this was a good place for us to locate for our business. I will say the City of Brantford was very aggressive in helping us make the decision to locate here. Much more so than some of the other jurisdictions we looked at.
You know, for Massilly, the move to Brantford has been 100% positive. We feel very supported. When we are here, people are happy that we are here and we’re thrilled to be here. We’re very much looking forward to developing a deeper relationship and deeper roots here as we continue to grown our business.
The post-secondary institutions are really - they’ve changed the community in so many ways. The transformation has really been driven by that activity. So you have the economic benefit of seeing, you have impacts between 48 and I believe 58 million dollars a year into the community. We’re seeing social and cultural change. There’s physical change in the downtown, businesses starting, catering to the students. Now what we’re talking about is tying our economic development processes to post-secondary so we’re looking at a knowledge base workforce which is more about where the jobs are going to be, as opposed to where the jobs were.
Brian Rosborough: Hi, my name’s Brian Rosborough and I’m the Senior Executive Officer of the Brantford Campus of Wilfred Laurier University. Our students in Brantford come from, about 30% from the GTA, another 40% from the surrounding area, including Hamilton, Kitchener, Waterloo, Brantford and Haldimand County.
Our goal here is to be very much a part of the Brantford community. So we started of small in 1999. Now we’ve got 18 buildings, new and repurposed buildings in the downtown. We want to be very much a part of the downtown so that when you visit downtown Brantford, you’re in downtown Brantford but you’re also at the heart of Laurier campus.
We’re very keen to ensure that downtown Brantford is a destination. Not just for our students, but to the greatest extent possible, you know a revitalized community, because that’s where our students want to study. We want to create a sense of place that’s welcoming to students, that will continue to attract students from the GTA, from the surrounding communities and having a downtown that has been revitalized, a downtown where there’s activity, that’s where students want to be. It’s where our faculty want to be, it’s where staff want to be.
Much of what we’ve accomplished here in Brantford is due in large measure to our partnership with the City. They’ve been here with us every step along the way from providing the first building - the Carnegie library. They’ve supported our steady growth here in the community and they continue to support us today in the projects that we are undertaking now.
We really are working together to make Brantford a destination for university and college students. A place where they’ll have a terrific academic experience and hopefully remain behind afterwards and become a part of the community.
It’s an easier lifestyle. It’s a less expensive lifestyle and we move at our own pace here which isn’t slow by any means but we understand and we really appreciate the ability to be able to kick back, relax after work. The trail system, the river, within five minutes you’re into rural areas; you can be into the small towns around us. It is what makes Brantford unique and the people who are moving here are loving being here.
Dan Gall: I’m Dan Gall, General Manager of OLG Casino Brantford. We’re a one stop shop for our entertainment seeker in the sense that you can come out for a great dinner, you can play some tables, you can play some slots, you can have some camaraderie with your wife or significant other or friends.
We’re the local casino where people know each other and our people, our employees know our customers.
When we started off in Brantford several years ago we were able to attract a large amount of people that wanted to come into a brand new industry that we were bringing to Brantford. On top of that, most of our employees are still here. They’re day-oners which is just I think it says a lot about the city itself and the company OLG itself.
Brantford’s a great fit for OLG for a variety of reasons. One - the population of the size of the town is a great fit for the full service casino that we are offering. On top of that the amenities that the city offers our employees and our customers is an attraction unto itself as well.
The City has been wonderfully representative in promoting not only OLG Casino but working together as a community with all the stakeholders in play in the Brantford area, that it is definitely a win, win situation for all involved.
I think the mere growth of what’s been happening with the City of Brantford has been nothing but positive. You see that with the Laurier University. You see that with the all the construction and the further development of the city going on. So as far as OLG Casino Brantford is, I think that it is in great shape for the future in moving ahead with our interests as well as the City’s. The City of Brantford does well, our business does well, it’s as simple as that.
Mayor Chris Friel: Ferrero is a remarkable story in the City of Brantford. It’s the largest single investment in manufacturing in the last 50 years. Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, Tic Tacs. They’re grown 168 acres out in the Northwest Industrial Park in the City of Brantford.
There’s about 655 full time employees, 450 million dollars worth of investment. 1.5 million square feet worth of manufacturing and logistics space. That is a remarkable industry for any community to be able to have. What’s even better is that it’s family based company that is very conscious of its role within the community. Not only do we have this incredible growth from Ferrero as its own entity but they’ve created circles of growth all around them that are benefitting the community and will for generations to come.
Jay Godsall: I’m Jay Godsall; I’m CEO of Solarship Inc. At Solarship we build hybrid aircraft and they’re essentially buoyantly assisted bush planes. So if you take a bush plane base and you take an airship top and squish it flat, you get a nice big flat surface where you can put a solar panel on top, you get a huge surface for a wing lift and you develop a very heavy lift bush plane.
Brantford offered us a really good industrial base. It’s right in the middle of one of the most industrialized places in the world. There’s a proximity to what we call the triangle, so there’s a huge tech base in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, big manufacturing base. Just a huge amount of suppliers. For a small company it’s a big expense to move from Barrie to Brantford. The infrastructure attracted us at first and then the talent. You don’t really know, you sometimes hear there’s a lot of talent, a lot of mechanical, electrical and entrepreneurial talent around but you don’t know until you get here. You get a community of aviators and electrical people and mechanical people who don’t just know how to do things, they want to help you. That’s a huge difference for us.
Our partnership with the City starts with the municipal airport and because they’ve got a big aviation community that builds things, they have a lot of people who invent and build new types of aircraft, so they’re used to seeing new experimental aircraft and they’re very open minded to us. That’s really important to us. They give us a lot of space. They help us out. We need to be around people who are open-minded to expansion and ambitious ideas.
A number of people moved right away to Brantford from Barrie. All real estate, housing and industrial space is really reasonable in Brantford compared to a lot of other places. They love Brantford because there’s so much industry in the general area and there are so many people who know how to do industrial things. It’s a very industrious population.
Mayor Chris Friel: Think about what we, as a community, have been able to accomplish in Brantford. Over the last 15 years of transformation, there isn’t another community in North America that I think that can point to where we were and fighting to get to where we are now. And we are about to see phenomenal growth in this community and it is something that we are all, and should be, proud of because we were all part of making it happen.