#LoveLocal: The vast majority of Brampton companies are small businesses
Locally owned and operated businesses are the social, cultural and economic heart of a community. Unfortunately, this past year has left many unsure if they can continue. In this weeklong series, we look at the vital role local businesses play in our communities, the financial pressure they are under due to COVID-19, and what we can do to help them survive.
When Boyd Reid became the cofounder of a tech startup in 2019, his goal was to help fill a gap in need that he saw in the GTA.
Less than a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and that gap changed radically.
Hopin Tech is a platform that links ride-share services and bus companies with organizations that require shuttle services for employees coming to and from work.
“We were looking forward to getting going,” Reid said, explaining that for the first few months the startup sat in limbo. “Like a lot of businesses, we were in triage mode.”
Hopin Tech is one of more than 73,000 businesses in the City of Brampton. According to 2020 StatCan data, 88 per cent of these businesses employ fewer than 10 people, 99 per cent employ fewer than 50.
“Local businesses have a higher tendency to use local suppliers, local services and support local teams and local charities and non-profits,” said Brampton Board of Trade CEO Todd Letts.
He said that Brampton accounts for 10 per cent of the $250 billion worth of gross domestic product (GDP) generated in the GTA — that’s $25 billion.
“Small businesses represent a significant portion of the Brampton business portfolio,” said Suzy Godefroy, executive director of the Downtown Brampton BIA.
According to the City of Brampton’s economic development office, the total number of businesses operating in the city increased by five per cent in 2019.
Manufacturing is one of the largest sectors in the city, with an estimated 1,500 companies employing 30,000 people, contributing approximately $4 billion to Canada’s GDP annually.
The food and beverage industry contributes $1.3 billion to the national GDP and employs 8,500 people in Brampton.
Other key economic drivers are logistics, health and sciences, and tech companies.
“We feel the downtown businesses are really an essential service,” Godefroy said, explaining that the core of the city is a gathering place, a space where offices and administration operate, and a thriving economic hub.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought “an incredible amount of pain” to many segments of the economy. Thousands of businesses have shuttered across the country, said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, while stressing the importance of finding a local option for products to keep main streets vibrant.
“If we don’t buy local, we’re going to have to say goodbye to local,” he said.
“When we do the farmers’ market, we know there’s a significant impact,” Godefroy said, giving an example of how important foot traffic, local events and accessibility are for a thriving local economy.
Reid and his team at Hopin also know how important the downtown core and its businesses are for the local economy, that’s why he and his team have been offering free delivery for businesses in the area to send their products across the GTA.
“We’re really in the business of trying to help those who need it the most,” Reid said, explaining that Hopin employs 13 people and has provided more than 300 free deliveries since November.
The company has pivoted and partnered with a coach bus line to provide private and safe transport for essential workers at facilities in the GTA.
In turn, the coach buses didn’t sit idle, and the company was able to hire four drivers.
Currently, the app is being used to organize shuttle service for workers at Maple Lodge Farms, taking them as far as Scarborough.
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