In Full Bloom

City of Brampton

Brampton, known as Canada’s Flower City, has one of the most diverse economies of any city in Canada – and one of the most diverse populations.

Business in Focus spoke with Director of Economic Development and Tourism, Sohail Saeed, about the rapid pace at which the city is growing and how its strategic location is advantageous to future prosperity.

“We have a saying that, when you come out of the airport, you make a right turn and are in Brampton in five minutes. But, if you make a left turn, you are in Toronto in one hour. That is a key element,” says Mr. Saeed. With immediate access to national and international highways and just minutes from the Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Brampton is strategically connected.

Marketing company Barrett and Welsh was commissioned in 2012 to help the city rediscover itself based on its strengths. “They recognized that we had 209 different ethnicities that spoke 89 different languages. The talent pool here is incredible! The world has chosen to live and work here. So, the biggest trend is not a sector, but a people-powered economy.” And Brampton’s “people-powered economy” has become a driving force in keeping the city moving.

The city slogan “b…more, b…extraordinary, b…unstoppable” is not only a slogan, but a call to action. It is an invitation to come to Brampton and take that challenge – to take advantage of the numerous choices that are present in the city. It all comes together in the diversity that the city offers within the talent and availability of workforce and through business community support. “I don’t invite businesses to come into a business city,” says Mr. Saeed; “I say, ‘Come join the business community,’ because we support each other quite well.”

Brampton is truly open for business. Seventy-two percent of businesses in the city are service oriented and the rest are product based. Ninety percent of the 9,000 businesses in the city are SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Businesses are open late and are supported by the community, making it a safe haven for its residents. This is enticing to the pool of international interests that bring in resources and start up businesses. Through Brampton’s Small Business Enterprise Centre, the city provides businesses with a one-stop shop for business resources.

“We offer them free business advice, templates of business models and business plans, budgets, etc. To get them going with the research, and we also help with marketing. In this way, we are able to accommodate the close to 18,000 people that come into the city every year.”

When Mr. Saeed goes around the world selling Brampton, he emphasizes the fact that anyone coming in as a company will be competing with a global product – not just a Canadian one. The city has a global access and a large pool of people with various skills applied to a number of sectors.

The largest of these is in advanced manufacturing. Everything from cars to robots is manufac-tured here. The Chrysler Assembly Plant and Satellite Stamping Plant produce almost 250,000 cars per year. The robotics company behind the Canadarm used on the NASA Space Shuttle, MDA creates solutions for industries as diverse as manned and unmanned space exploration, robotic mining, aviation navigation, robotic surgery and nuclear reactor maintenance. ABB, a leader in automation and power technologies and the world’s largest builder of electricity grids, is also found here.

Medtronic, a world leader in medical technologies, has headquarters in Brampton as does Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories and Taro Pharmaceuticals.

In the field of information and communications technology, giants such as Rogers Communications call Brampton home as do hundreds of smaller companies like IT consulting and private cloud company IT Weapons.

Air Canada’s global operations centre is the biggest and newest feather in Brampton’s cap. Air Canada moved its offices from Montreal to Brampton late last year, and controls over six hundred flights daily from its new location.

Another growing sector is in food and beverage production with over 120 companies and 13,000 employees. Loblaws’ headquarters are in Brampton as well as Maple Lodge Farms and Italpasta. Coca-Cola and Bacardi have bottling facilities located here. Robotics companies are also involved in this sector. “This is how we provide our supply chain right in the city for a cross pollination of different sectors.”

In terms of events and festivals, Brampton’s summer offers a selection as diverse as its population. It all kicks off with the three day Rib ‘n’ Roll festival. “Who doesn’t like smoked ribs?”

The city’s biggest festival, CeleBRAMPTON, which features entertainment, food, fun and the Flower City Parade will take place on the fourteenth of June. As Canada’s Flower City, Brampton has some of the most beautiful flowerbeds and floral displays and its Flower City Festival showcases free performances of the arts, culture and theatre.

Its Garden Square is host to Saturday family film nights, the Friday night concert series and Shakespeare in the Square. In July, Brampton has displays classic and legendary cars in an event which draws over 60,000 people every year. Culture days are held on the last weekend of September.

Also very popular is the Downtown Brampton Christmas Market, also known as Noah’s Market, which occurs in November. The Santa Claus parade draws 130,000 people, and Mr. Saeed says that, “If you have not been to Brampton, you have to come at Christmas time. A horse driven carriage is giving rides. The whole downtown core is completely lit up all the way to Garden Square. It reflects all the cultures and communities. Everybody participates in that together.”

The city is home to the province’s third largest farmers market, organized by the Brampton Economic Development Office. It starts on June 21 of this year and will run until the Thanksgiving weekend. With close to one hundred vendors, it is considered an authentic market under provincial bylaws – it must have 51% farmers and there is no re-sale of product. “Everybody makes it, cooks it and bakes it in order to sell at the market. Close to 80,000 people visit every season.”

The city’s unique qualities have been recognized by the broader community. The World Health Organization recognizes Brampton as an international safe community – the only city in Ontario with that designation; Standard & Poors has given Brampton a “AAA” credit rating for the last ten years; and, most importantly in Mr. Saeed’s eyes, is the international ranking by fDi Intelligence (a division of the Financial Times in the UK) which has named Brampton as being in the top ten mid-sized American Cities of the Future for foreign direct investment. fDi Intelligence’s analysis also listed the city as ranking highly in business friendliness and infrastructure. The global recognition is an indication that the city’s focus on attracting global investment continues to pay off.

As the city has been growing by leaps and bounds, increasing demands for services meant the existing hospital needed to be replaced, so the city invested $1 billion in the acute care Brampton Civic Hospital. The ultra-modern facility opened in 2007 to provide a full range of medical specialities and acute care treatments. It is one of Canada’s first public hospitals that has been financed, designed, built and maintained under a public-private partnership.

Planning for future growth meant that simply meeting existing needs was not enough. “The problem was: How do we get ahead of ourselves? So, instead of opening a similar hospital, that is where the concept of the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness was born. It is slated for 2015/16. It will provide specialized out patient care, including day surgery and other speciality clinics.”

With a focus on helping patients to better manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or kidney disease, its specialty clinics are not about curing illness but about general wellness and prevention. New models of care will encourage patients to take a more active role. Working with the province and other partners, city council has committed $60 million to the revitalization of the former hospital site for this venture.

Mr. Saeed has been the head of economic development and the tourism division for nearly three years, and was impressed with the forethought that the city planners had. Twenty-five to thirty year strategic plans were in place.

When asked about what he sees for the city in twenty-five years’ time, Mr. Saeed says, “The city is debt free, infrastructure is built and we still have land for the next fifteen years in greenfield development. In the sectors we talked about, if I put the picture together, it will be a knowledge based, creative economy with a young population.” It is notable that Brampton is one of the youngest communities in Canada, with a median age of 34.7 years.

Brampton is the ninth largest city in Canada and growing rapidly. However, this city is ready for everything that comes its way.

For more information about the City of Brampton, please visit

March 20, 2018, 9:49 AM EDT

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