The bi-national region encompassing BuffaloNiagara, Hamilton, and Greater Niagara has a population of over 3 million. Our location is one of our greatest assets – it provides businesses with the opportunity to expand seamlessly into new markets. Encouraging cross-border trade is crucial to growing the economy in our bi-national region. To fully capitalize on our potential as a region, we must grow together.
But the idea of an integrated cross-border economy isn’t strictly economic development – it’s about relationships as well. Dottie Gallagher-Cohen of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Keanin Loomis, of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and Mishka Balsom, of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, all agree that establishing meaningful relationships is important to the growth of our region. Our three CEO’s offered insights into the growth of our bi-national economy during the 2018 CanAm Now event. The conversation focused on the success stories from both sides of the border, and strategies to foster cross-border business development.
“There’s a lot of magic in the private sector seeing and talking and connecting with one another,” said Dottie Gallager-Cohen. “If you think about how we can compete as a region, we are so much stronger together.”
Mishka Balsom echoed a similar sentiment. “I think we are natural partners because of our history, because of our proximity and because of the opportunities that are there,” she said. “Each and every time I go to a gathering I find out about another business that I’ve never heard about; a great success story. We need to share our stories because when you hear that from someone else, you’re willing to go that pathway.”
Keanin Loomis emphasized how important it is that businesses in the region take advantage of their geographic location. “Canadian businesses can only grow so big with the Canadian market. And because we are so close to the U.S., we definitely need to be looking across that border to grow our businesses.”
Loomis went on to explain that the bi-national partnership between regions means much more than two-way trade. “This isn’t actually just bi-national, because of some of the agreements that we have in Canada with the EU in particular. We have better access to other countries. This is where we’re selling ourselves [to American companies] as a gateway to other nations.”
When asked about their visions for the future of the region, all three CEO’s offered hopeful and actionable responses.
Loomis said he expects the region to keep getting bigger. As the region grows, he said, the importance of building relationships within our communities and across the border will only increase.
“Our economies are highly integrated,” said Balsom. “I think if you can nourish that, to our economic benefit and to the benefit of all the businesses that are here, I think we need to step forward. If we grow that collaboration that is there, one company at a time, I think we are going to become highly economically competitive.”
Dottie Gallagher-Cohen closed the discussion with high hopes for the future of our CanAm region. “I see our relationship as helping to build an infrastructure for the growth of the future. That is our goal and our job.”