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Durham set to continue on with Toronto Global

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Durham is set to sign up for another year with investment attraction organization Toronto Global.

Staff has recommended the region continue its involvement with the group and allocate its $206,397 funding share for 2019.

The 2019 amount would be the first in a proposed five-year commitment through 2024. The original three-year commitment ends on March 31, 2019.

Founded in 2017, Toronto Global has a mandate to attract foreign investment to Durham, York, and Halton regions, and the cities of Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton.

The organization receives $1.98 million in funding from the six municipalities, as well as provincial and federal support.

Toronto Global replaced the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA), an organization regional staff state was severely “under-resourced.”

In 2017, Toronto Global CEO Toby Lennox told regional council the GTMA had done a “poor job” of representing Durham Region in the past.

Toronto Global faced criticism from some regional councillors, who questioned its effectiveness in helping Durham.

Former Oshawa councillor Amy McQuaid-England said the GTMA and Toronto Global had both offered Durham little return on its investment, and the organization was predominantly focused on the province’s capital city.

“Everything is Toronto-focused. The name is Toronto Global; how does that help us [believe] that [Durham Region] is part of the priority,” McQuaid-England asked officials in 2017.

Other councillors challenged the need for Toronto Global when the region has its own in-house investment attraction program.

However, the director of economic development and tourism Simon Gill says Toronto Global does offer benefits to the region, such as marketing the region internationally and conducting detailed research which furthers Durham’s investment attraction efforts.

“I would definitely say we are getting our money’s worth from Toronto Global. They have conveyed to us a really strong strategy which aligns with what Durham is looking for,” Gill told The Oshawa Express.

Since December 2017, Toronto Global has involved Durham in 14 prospective investments, 10 of which remain active.

It was also the driving force behind the GTA bid for Amazon’s HQ2 project, which included potential locations in Pickering and Ajax.

“The work Toronto Global put in that proposal was able to make it the only Canadian city short listed, ” Gill states. “Durham Region had some really great sites in that proposal.”

Toronto Global’s proposal was downloaded about 20,000 times across the world, and while it did not land Amazon’s HQ2, Gill says it put a lot of focus on the region.

“A lot of [the people who downloaded the proposal] have their own companies that are interested in making simillar investments,” he adds.

While there has not been any successful investments secured for Durham, Gill says Toronto Global has significantly increased the region’s exposure, and it is believed there will be investments secured over the next year.

“The average sales cycle for an investment attraction project in sectors other than ICT/Digital Media is typically two to three years. Toronto Global has been active for less than two years, so it is reasonable to expect investments to begin occurring the next 12 months in Durham’s priority sectors,” Bridgeman states in a report to council.

These priority sectors are agri-business, innovative technology, EN3 (engineering, environment and energy), life sciences and manufacturing.

“These sectors represent what Durham’s economic development [department] feels is our best options because of the great assets and clusters we have built up in the region,” Gill says.

The funding is subject to final council approval in the 2019 budget.