WHAT IS THE GTMA?
When someone mentions the Greater Toronto Area, many confuse this with the amalgamated City of Toronto. The City is in fact just the core of the GTA. As you will note in the material at your tables, the GTA includes Halton, Peel, York, Durham and the City of Toronto.
This is an immense area covering some 7,700 square kilometers. It has a population of well over 5.3 million people.
What may surprise you is that this is the fourth largest metropolitan region in Canada and the United States exceeded only by New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
It is also one of the fastest growing City Regions in North America growing at over 100,000 people a year (now you can sympathize with the planners who are trying to stop gridlock on the 401!)
And yet the GTA remains almost unknown around the world or at least it is regularly underestimated. I just came back from a GTMA Mission to India. When I mentioned to an associate from the United States that I had taken the non-stop flight from Toronto to New Delhi, his reply was “Oh, does Toronto have an international airport?”
This amazing City Region is clearly the economic driving force in Canada. In fact it generates one-fifth of Canada’s GDP. It employs nearly 3 million people or almost one-fifth of all employed Canadians.
It is Canada’s largest retail market representing some $46 billion or 15% of all Canadian retail sales.
The Toronto Stock Exchange is ranked North America’s third largest by dollar value traded.
The area dominates Canada’s concentration of head offices with nearly 40%.
And we tend to forget that the GTA is second only to Detroit in terms of automotive manufacturing.
This is clearly a City Region of substance.
And yet incredibly enough until the formation of the GTMA, there was no one promoting the area as a City Region. Certainly, Markham used to market Markham, Mississauga marketed Mississauga but the international community looks at the resources of an entire City Region rather than the individual components of it.
About seven years ago development in the GTA was starting to level off. At the time I was Chair of the Toronto Board of Trade. The Toronto Board is a great organization but it is a policy body that tends to point out all the problems in the area e.g. the roads have potholes, the taxi system is poor, the rents in the core are too high, etc. I looked at this program and while I had no problem with someone pointing these things out, I also felt that the GTA was a tremendous product and something that someone should be marketing actively.
Co-incidentally Mayor Hazel McCallion had established and was the Chair of the GTA Mayors and Regional Chairs Committee. She saw exactly the same need.
We put together a lose amalgamation of the Boards of Trade and Chambers of Commerce in the GTA and the Mayors and Chairs Committee representing twenty-nine municipalities joined with us to establish a single point of entry, a single voice if you wish for the international marketing of the GTA. The GTMA is really a coordinating body. The individual municipalities retain their own Economic Development departments in most cases but they have agreed to outsource their international marketing to the GTMA.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE GTMA
The GTMA was established as a Public/Private Partnership often known as a PPP. This is a very unusual process for Canada although it is relatively common in the United States. In fact, in the US the Chamber of Commerce often takes on this role on a purely private sector basis. However with a good Canadian compromise, it was felt that this should be a co-operative effort.
We are funded about 60% by government with the municipalities providing most of the core funding but with considerable assistance from the federal government. The remaining 40% comes from the private sector.
It is easy to see why private sector firms would want to be involved. Obviously the faster the growth in the GTA, the more business opportunities exist. This is why we are strongly supported by the banks, Bell, Toronto Hydro, Enbridge and many similar firms. As you would also expect we have the active involvement of real estate firms, legal firms, accounting organizations and similar groups who will benefit from new businesses entering into the area.
We in turn benefit greatly by having this kind of expertise available. When we bring companies into the GTA, we are able to put them in touch with organizations providing the kinds of services they will need to get established here.
One of the greatest drawing cards to the GTA is the highly educated work force. Over 43% of employees in the area have a post secondary degree or diploma. As you can imagine, amongst our greatest supporters are the universities and community colleges and our honorary board includes the presidents of the three major universities, most of the community colleges and a wide selection of community leaders including several bank chairs.
There is also a working Board which has as its honorary co-chairs Mayor David Miller, Mayor Hazel McCallion, John Hunkin and Ted Rogers.
As we depend greatly on volunteers to support our work we are able to do the marketing function with a small but dedicated staff of six under Karen Campbell, President and CEO.
The GTMA operates on a budget of only about $2 million a year which is miniscule relative to Montreal International which does a similar function with a budget of over $10 million and a staff of over 50. We get around this by levering the monies we have with volunteers.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
Believe it or not, we are the only pan-GTA organization in existence. The original Mayors and Chairs Committee dissolved when the Greater Toronto Services Board was started several years ago. This lasted only about two years and for a variety of reasons was doomed to dissipate.
There is therefore no one other than the GTMA to package the City Region and develop the marketing materials to promote it.
For example, no one had done Sector Studies for the Region and yet we all know that companies tend to go where there is a cluster of similar industries. This ensures a labor pool, research support in the area and as a demonstration that others have found the City Region a very good place to operate. We have therefore done Sector Studies in areas such as the automotive industry, call centers, biotech, advanced manufacturing, information technology and communications and even the agribusiness. We do these by outsourcing the studies on a co-operative basis with major firms such as Ernst and Young, Price Waterhouse Coopers or others.
We then put summaries of these together in the form of marketing brochures. We also of course develop general ‘lure’ brochures explaining the many advantages of the GTA as a place in which to do business. Amongst the many reasons are that
• The GTA is a low cost entry point to the North American marketplace with access to 135 million customers within a day’s drive or an hour’s flight.
• It is the most multi-cultural and multi-lingual city of its size in the world according to the United Nations and Fortune magazine with over 169 different countries of origin represented with over 100 languages spoken here. This makes the GTA an ideal location for outreach programs around the world.
• Our work force is not only highly educated as noted but provides a degree of stability unknown in Silicon Valley or elsewhere.
• We have an unrivaled quality of life being the third largest producer of English language theater in the world. This will only improve with the new opera house, AGO, ROM and other world class facilities.
• Even with the climbing Canadian dollar, we are still substantially e.g. 30% less expensive as a place from which to operate than other areas in North America or around the world.
In addition to the print material we produce CD ROMs, in-flight shorts for Air Canada international flights and as would be expected have developed a comprehensive web site.
We deal with our consulates around the world and they have been very helpful in referring potential investors.
However, all these things are somewhat passive and no good sales organization can afford to be that. Where applicable we participate in major trade shows such as the Society of Automotive Engineers or Biotech conferences.
However, we also take the story personally to areas that we believe should be considering the GTA as a place to set up a business. Specifically we run Missions that are self financing and are attended by representative of both government and industry. These have been run to Silicon Valley, New York, Washington, the EU in Hamburg and elsewhere, London and most recently India. In fact I just returned exactly a week ago after co-chairing a Mission to India with Hazel McCallion.
The GTMA has been very successful in bringing new industries into the area and a number of these have been from India. For example, we have worked with Infosys, Polaris, Cognizant and Satyam. As we made presentations to large groups in New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai set up by the Confederation of Indian Industry, these companies gave testimonials as to how successful their location in the GTA had been.
Everyone has heard of outsourcing and offshore development of software and manufacturing. The relatively low cost in countries such as India and China makes some of this inevitable. We sell a concept called near-shoring because we believe that even if some development work is done offshore, there is a requirement for both a marketing and a systems analysis job to be done close to the customers. We point out that the GTA is the logical place from which to exploit the North American marketplace.
SO WHY IS ALL OF THIS OF INTEREST TO MEMBERS OF ROTARY?
As you can tell we are always selling! But really my purpose here today was just to inform you of a major effort going on to keep the economy of the GTA expanding rapidly.
In addition to getting involved with the work of the GTMA just because it is a good thing to do and good for the community, many organizations participate because they want to be in the front of the line when it comes to making contact with potential new investors. For this reason, just to use the recent India Mission as an example, we had participants from a legal firm specializing in immigration law, a major realtor, a national public relations firm, the Munk Centre for International Studies, the Rothman School of Management, a number of private companies and representative of the various municipalities. Your company may be interested in early contact with potential offshore investors in the GTA. If so, please leave me your card and we will get in touch.
We are also pleased to invite you to events run in the city from time to time and we have an electronic newsletter that we would be pleased to provide.
We have a great product in the GTA. We have the Location! Location! Location! And now all we have to do is Sell! Sell! Sell!
We are a relatively new organization compared to Rotary International and I have every expectation that we will be around in 100 years still promoting the GTA as one of the best places in the world in which to live and to work.