Throughout the meetings we’ve had on this trip, the unifying thread that has tied them all together has been our highly educated and talented population. Although we have many positive attributes, our human capital sets us apart and makes Mississauga and the GTA so much more attractive to the South American companies we have met with. We have been fortunate to have been accompanied by Rahul Petkar, CEO of Polaris Software Labs, based in Mississauga. Rahul speaks passionately about the talent in the GTA and Mississauga and how it helped him to grow his business. He left India in 2007 to start his software business and his destination of choice was the GTA. In only a short period of time, his company has grown to 170 employees and has expanded into the Chilean market, with an eye to Colombia as well. He credits his choice to move to Mississauga as the reason for the success of his business, and he is not alone. Rahul was able to hire from a deep pool of talent to develop his software and grow his business. I raise Rahul’s experience because his message has resonated profoundly with the companies we met with over the course of this trip. He has also chosen to come on this mission of his own accord and expense and his personal success story in the GTA has a great deal of resonance with local businesses in South America.
We started today’s meetings with ANDI, the Colombian Association of Business, which represents over 1,300 SMEs and large corporations who make up 45% of Colombia’s GDP. We were joined by a number of companies, including some already operating in the Canadian marketplace. By the end of our meeting with ANDI, quite a few of the companies indicated they would be visiting Canada soon and taking advantage of the GTMA’s “soft landing” program. This program provides prospective businesses with a one or two day tailored program allowing them to fully understand the requirements for locating in Canada, including incorporation, immigration, trademark and copyright rules, taxation, and much more. It has been an incredibly successful program that has allowed many companies to establish a foothold in the GTA. It is also a unique program that sets us apart from other jurisdictions.
Following ANDI, we met with ProColombia, the government-funded agency dedicated to promoting Colombian businesses globally. As was the case with ProChile, ProColombia was very interested in what the GTA and Mississauga have to offer. In fact, they have been actively been promoting the GTMA’s “Think Canada” program on October 21-22. This program will allow businesses looking to expand to the GTA to learn as much about our community and business climate as possible, as well as network with local businesses. It’s also a great way to build awareness about our area in a short period of time. We will continue to work with ProColombia on this initiative, as well as expanding our reach into Colombia and meeting as many businesses as possible.
In the afternoon we met with two digital media companies, specifically software and app development. It was fascinating to watch their attitude toward the GTA and Mississauga change as our meeting progressed. At first, they were convinced that Miami was the place to expand, however by the end of the meeting, after hearing about the GTA and Mississauga, they will now be visiting the GTA and hopefully setting up their permanent operation. They were sold after hearing about our Ontario digital media and federal and provincial R&D tax credits, our ability through NAFTA, and soon CETA, to access the United States and European markets, not to mention our burgeoning digital media sector in the GTA (replete with thousands of corporate clients).
We concluded our day with a dinner hosted by the Canadian Ambassador to Colombia, Carmen Sylvain. She shared with us the history of the Canadian presence in Colombia and how we have developed a strong relationship in the country. She has committed to working with us to find opportunities for Colombian companies to expand to the GTA using the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. As was the case in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Trade Commissioner, Stephane Larue, our Canadian representatives in South American are incredibly accommodating and strong ambassadors for Canada.
Tomorrow is our last day of meetings before we return to Canada on Friday. I am excited by the response we have received in Colombia so far, and look forward to continuing our development efforts in this country in the years to come. I am confident that if we continue to spread our positive message about the GTA and Mississauga in South America, we will realize great returns.