THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Mississauga Business Times - May 2, 2002 - Rick Drennan
EDO offices right across the province have artful ways of competing for development
If you're a huge multinational corporation or just Bob and Irene's Pizza Emporium, the welcome mat's out in Mississauga.
This City is, and will be "open for business" for as long as Hazel McCallion is the mayor. And despite her 81 years, that could be quite a long time. Her business-first philosophy is deeply engrained in the fabric of the City, and staff is urged to eliminate red tape, not use it to tie up development.
Mississauga has a corporate-based management structure, and "running the City like a business" has been the McCallion political mantra since Woody Allen was doing stand up.
When the huge million-square-foot Supply Chain Management distribution centre for Wal-Mart stores was rejected by Brampton residents (and the Ontario Municipal Board) as unsuitable development in its southwest quadrant, it was eagerly fitted into industrial lands in the Courtneypark, Highway 10 area of Mississauga.
"I'll do cartwheels to bring new business to the City," is the Hazel punch line at many public functions, and if that's a rather intriguing (and not totally implausible) image, the opportunity to market this city's investment possibilities to movers and shakers, falls squarely in the lap of the economic development office, under its executive director Larry Petovello.
It's a multi-billion dollar responsibility, and Mississauga has a leg up on the competition for a number of reasons:
* Low industrial and commercial tax rates;
* A long list of 400 series highways;
* An international airport within the City's boundaries;
* A rich, but ever-shrinking portfolio of well-serviced industrial land;
* A high-profile mayor who could sell coffee beans to Colombians;
* A talented team of City staffs, all well versed in the McCallion philosophy; and
* An elite ICI real estate sector who have their finger (and some of their head offices) on the pulse of development activity within
But hey, we're not the only hypergrowth community in and around the GTA. Pick a City or region and it's out to grab you with a catchy slogan.
Richmond Hill: 'Roaring into the 21st Century.
Brampton: Taking Care of Business...Everyday.
County of Brant: Simply Grand.
Sarnia-Lambton: Powered by Diversification.
So, here's the deal: You develop a catchy slogan ("The City above Toronto, the City of Vaughan"), market like crazy (TV, radio and newspaper ads), and offer some unique alternatives to Mississauga (lower tax rates, a more bucolic lifestyle, easy access to U.S. markets, etc. etc.), and voila: the battle to win the millions in tax revenue derived from a huge commercial or industrial project, is on. Mount the parapets, over the top... CHARGE!
This high stakes game of selling your City to potential suitors like Coca-Cola, Glaxo Smith Kline, Biovail, ABB, among others, has brought out the best in EDO offices right across Ontario. Most, including Mississauga, have won impressive marketing awards, and the services they now offer include everything from business directories on CD-ROM, to ambassador programs where local business leaders take a good-news message to potential business leaders right around the world, to a welcoming program, which sends EDO officials to business openings, anniversary celebrations, or get acquainted sessions. If Hazel is front and centre at most ribbon cutting ceremonies, chances are good that Petovello or a member of his staff is there also, in the background, shaking hands, asking how the EDO can help them achieve success.
There's a healthy competition among EDO offices to bring business to their cities. Some EDO officials even cringe when you whisper the word competition. Perhaps it's because those in the GTA are also members of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, an organization that sells the entire GTA and all its components to international markets. You can't be partners and competitors at the same time, can you?
Petovello says there's no analysis that he's aware that shows how his department competes relative to other cities in the GTA or southern Ontario. The proof is in the numbers: Mississauga has grown by about 1,000 companies annually, creating almost 15,000 jobs per year. Meanwhile, the EDO has numerous awards from its peers, at the provincial, national and international level. Its website business directory, brochures, and 'Running Man' advertisement were especially cited for innovation and clarity.
Its business development includes David Brown, Bonnie Dowhaniuk, a client account manger who specializes in office, hotel and call centre development, D'Arcy Rahkola, its industrial development specialist, MaryJo Hollands Hurst, who works on mega-projects like the business directory, and Heidi Brown, who heads up the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre.
It's a small staff with a huge job in a City of 625,000. Last year, the City surpassed, for the fifth straight year, the billion-dollar mark in building activity, checking in at $1.77 billion.
The Mississauga EDO has a unique makeup in that it is not officially called a public-private organization, but it does utilize and maximize private and public partnership opportunities. In fact, 45 per cent of the overall EDO budget comes from private and public partners as well as sales revenue. It's made up of an advisory board, the Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC) which provides private-sector advice and assistance to the EDO.
This setup is much the same for its northern neighbour in Brampton. But there are numerous jurisdictions (Toronto and Oakville, to name just two), that do things differently. The Town of Oakville has a separate public-private partnership corporation (Oakville Economic Development Alliance) to handle its EDO/tourism services.
"The OEDA has adopted an integrated economic development approach to business and tourism development for the Town of Oakville by working with community partners," said Doug Watson, former CEO, and past chair of the board of directors. Its new CEO, John Walker, senior advisor for Falconbridge Limited, likes the makeup of the OEDA, and the input from private sector members. Walker is a former member of the board of directors of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), and studied urban and regional planning while at York University.
Oakville, its chamber of commerce and the local business community created the OEDA in 1999 to promote the Town for business and tourism development.
The shift in Oakville's economic development setup has resulted in a number of new initiatives, including everything from promotion of Sheridan College at international conferences, a shared business directory by the town and its Chamber of Commerce, and services that include developing and maintaining a competitive industrial/office real estate inventory - including the preparation of an online (and confidential) site location analyses for clients. The OEDA is made up of a board of directors, a CEO, an investment and client development officer, marketing and partnership development officer, research and policy analyses, and other positions.
Its GTA-West brochure (shared with Burlington) won a Canada-wide award. Alain Batty, president of Ford Motor Company of Canada, addressed its annual general meeting earlier this year.
Close to 180 industrial and commerical real estate brokers/developers and assoicates congregated at Sheridan College last year to hear about development trends and opportunities in the Burlington and Oakville marketplace. A networking lunch and tour of the college followed.
Toronto's Economic Development Corp. (TEDCO)'s mandate is heavily involved in the sale and lease of municipal property. Toronto also has a significant staff that works in the typical economic development services.
Remember TEDCO? Their former chairman signed what many called a sweetheart deal with former Knob Hill Farms' kingpin Steve Stavro. It gave the head of Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment a long-term lease on land adjacent to his store in the port lands of East Toronto. The chairman resigned over the deal for misleading the board, and the land deal is now in the courts.
The 2002 Mississauga EDO marketing and promotion budget is $322,000, and that price tag includes market research, creative services, ad placements (both internationally and locally), printed materials, website maintenance and development, trade shows and missions, business travels and hosting business delegations, as well as promoting the small business enterprise centre (MBEC). Recently the EDO hosted KPMG's launch of its international study that placed the GTA ahead of its international competition when compared to cities in the northeastern United States, such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Columbus, Ohio.
The annual Fall Seminar of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) is also a great place for EDO officials to set up a booth and rub shoulders with the area's top brokers. It's a never-ending job, but the fruits are well worth it. Over the past year, one of the largest office developments in Canada (the Bell Mobility complex) has arisen on Creekbank Drive overlooking Etobicoke Creek. Computer software giant Oracle has added a new 10-storey office building to its Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, and Microsoft is about to move into its new 160,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art headquarters at 6911 Creditview Road. The list is long and impressive, and Petovello thinks it's dangerous to compare the different EDO offices in and around the GTA simply because most function differently.
For example, Halton (Oakville-Burlington) has regional and local EDO's, while Peel doesn't; and Oakville, Brampton and Toronto's EDOs have a significant tourism function while Mississauga does not. In fact, Mississauga recently established a tourism function in the community services department and is now in the process of hiring a manager.
The Mississauga EDO has had its share of advertising campaigns, from its 'Running Man' promotion to this year's 'Branch Out,' used in conjunction with its 'All the Right Connections' logo.
It's a member of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario, an "idea exchange" that holds two annual meetings to provide an interchange for ideas on principles, practices and ethics in the field of industrial and economic development.
In the City of Brampton, with loads of available industrial land, a business-friendly mayor (Susan Fennell), and an award-winning EDO office, the only thing keeping this major player from outstripping Mississauga, is, well, Mississauga.
Dennis Cutajar, Brampton's executive director of business development and public relations, calls his City's marketing campaign a "necessary competition. Every consumer should have options," he says.
Adds Cutajar: Options mean that experts are required to provide information and professional advice on the opportunities available at the local and site level. One large EDO agency in the GTA could not possibly service this function. Since the GTA market is one of the largest ICI markets in North America, competition also ensures the key municipal price points are kept in check, such as taxes, development charges and other impost fees.
Brampton pays $38,000 per year to be a member of the GTMA, and the Old Navy distribution centre on McLaughlin Road in Brampton is just one example of a project which involved a successful partnership between the GTMA, the local EDO and the province to ensure a project landed there.
Why doesn't Brampton create an Oakville-like EDO?
Brampton, says Cutajar, is unique in that its Economic Development Committee of Council is one of the few in Canada in which businesses have the opportunity to make direct recommendations on economic development policy to City Council. "Brampton is arguably one of the leaders in formalizing true private-public partnership organizational and funding models," he says.
Cutajar says the advantages of the current setup are wide representation from many businesses across many sectors, not a select few sitting on a board.
Brampton has instituted an aggressive marketing campaign over the past six years. Since 1995, its has raised awareness of the City as a viable investment option, not just a northern continuation of Mississauga. With the development of the ETR 407, and its closeness to the airport, Cutajar says it was critical for Brampton to position itself as a major transportation terminal, and its 'All Roads Lead to Brampton' campaign did just that.
This has seen Brampton break through the magical $1 billion barrier in new construction for the first time in its history.
The City's new "Taking Care of Business....Everyday" anthem ensures, says Cutajar, that Brampton will continue to be seen as a City...Open for Business."
Brampton, like Mississauga, is awash in EDO awards. It was cited as the 'Best Economic Development Program in Canada in the year 2000.
A few months back, Brampton invited major ICI brokers in the area to a special kickoff of its three-year marketing plan to "aggressively" attract business to the City.
"While it appears that other cities have slowed down with the economy, we are out in the spotlight, chasing investment leads, creating new economic opportunities and expanding Brampton's share of the industrial-commercial markets," said Fennell.
"Brampton is easy to sell," added Janet Biggart, chair of the marketing committee, trotting out the obvious points: closeness to airport, linked by the 400 series highway, and an excellent, family-lifestyle City.
Brampton began its aggressive campaign by laying out $150,000 in 1995. That figure hit $700,000 by 1998, and according to Biggart, the City has moved from "where the hell is Brampton" in the eyes of potential investors, to a dynamic, modern-day City, with loads of investment potential.
"We'll do whatever it takes to promote our City," said Fennell at the marketing event. "It's our turn now."
Brampton attracted major development in 2001, including Coca Cola Bottling, Loomis Courier Service, Maritime-Ontario Freight Lines and Yusen Air and Sea Service. There was an 18 per cent increase in new jobs over 2000, and a total of 221 new business moved to the City, resulting in 4,500 new jobs. Nestle Canada, Culligan, Hostess Frito Lay and Best Buy will open office and industrial facilities this year, and the number of companies making investment inquires to the City's EDO has increased 20 per cent over last year, says Cutajar.
"Brampton has the land inventory while Mississauga is mostly in-fill development, said Fennell, who has a message for potential investors: "this city makes sense."
Do EDO offices really assist development? You bet, says John Borrelli, leasing manager for Morguard Investments Limited. His firm is charged with leasing four major buildings in the City core of Mississauga. Borrelli says the Mississauga EDO provided crucial and instant information to a potential client interested in leasing one of the buildings. This kind of information, says Borrelli, is critical for companies like Morguard, looking to attract the headquarters of firms currently located in other municipalities.
Not all communities are created equal, however. Brantford is smaller than its major GTA competitors, and located far from the madding crowds, just west of Hamilton along the 403 corridor. To Paisley MacKenzie of the economic development office, that's a crucial selling point for her City. She notes that land (at $55,000 to $60,000 per acre, compared to $250,000 per acre in Oakville, for example) and development prices are lower, traffic isn't a life and death struggle to survive the rush hour, and Brantford is one of the shortest transportation routes to the United States. With wage rates lower than the GTA, and a less hectic lifestyle, many companies are looking to places like this to set up shop.
She says Branford gets "our piece of the pie" when it comes to development, even if some communities "don't play fair" in the game to attract business. Brant County partners with the City of Brantford to promote opportunities for development, and even the City's local hero, Wayne Gretzky, has offered up his services (radio ads, etc.) to help promote his hometown.
The Brantford EDO is well-known with the big ICI brokers, and MacKenzie says the local EDO is targeting certain business sectors, like food processors.
A new business park is being opened in Brantford, and the mega bakery (240,000 sq. ft) will give an economic jolt to this part of Ontario.
And the times they are a-changin'. That's the word for none other than Mayor McCallion, head of the Smart Growth Panel, a private-public partnerships that trying to respond to the problems of gridlock and out-of-control development in the GTA.
Mayor Hazel seems to be practicing compromise instead of cartwheels these days. She says that it's time other cities had a chance to share the riches that have spilled into Mississauga and other GTA communities over the past decade.
"We cannot concentrate all the economic growth in a few areas," she told reporters, after a smart growth panel meeting in Richmond Hill last month. "We must spread the economic benefit so the entire central Ontario area benefits. We should share the economic growth to create jobs in other areas so people can live and work in their communities."
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