Laurier Brantford and city staff shared their experience improving the city’s downtown through post-secondary education with representatives of municipalities from across Ontario during a panel discussion on Tuesday.
More than 50 people attended the city-hosted “Revitalization Through Education” event at Laurier Brantford’s Research and Academic Centre.
“(Brantford) is poised to become a 21st century city,” Brantford Mayor Chris Friel said. “With the completion of a comprehensive downtown master plan, supported by the Wilfrid Laurier campus master plan, downtown Brantford will continue its transformation into a vibrant, diverse and beautiful destination.
“Partnerships with post-secondary institutions will continue to play a key role in the educational attainment and development of our workforce. (This will) diversify the community’s economic base and enhance our ability to attract and retain residents, businesses and students to service the new economy.”
Bryan Plumstead, tourism manager and economic development co-ordinator with the County of Grey, attended the discussion.
“I am here to listen, learn and see what Brantford has done,” Plumstead said. “We have identified economic development as a priority for our county.
“We need to develop more post-secondary education opportunities. I am amazed by the pedestrian-friendly streetscape in downtown Brantford.”
Brantford Coun. John Utley said the discussion presented an opportunity to showcase what Brantford has done to improve its core.
“We are transitioning from a blue-collar community into having a balance between blue and white collar,” Utley said. “I have always felt that with a university here, it will attract a new breed of companies.”
Although downtown Brantford has come a long way during the past decade, Utley said there is still room for improvement.
“The development of the YMCA facility, more student housing and small businesses all play a part in the growth of our downtown,” he said.
Antonio Araujo, director of campus operations with Laurier Brantford, said the campus is fully integrated into the city’s downtown.
“It is very exciting to be downtown,” Araujo said. “Students can experience the community in a different way than on an isolated green-space campus.”
Araujo said Laurier Brantford has current and future expansion priorities. He said a large residence, an academic library, a dining hall and athletics facilities are key to moving forward.
City Coun. Marguerite Ceschi-Smith said Brantford has re-invented itself through the growth of post-secondary education. Ceschi-Smith said it is important to let other jurisdictions know how that growth occurred.
“This is about sharing with other municipalities across Ontario what we have done and what is possible in terms of community development,” Ceschi-Smith said. “Everyone’s leadership has allowed us to come together and create this vision, which is the rebirth of our community.”