Hire a “Mr. or Ms. Abbotsford” to promote investment, consultants tell city

Report recommends city hire an on-the-ground trade representative in India to promote investment

The city should hire a “Mr. or Ms. Abbotsford” to try to attract more foreign investment from India.

That’s one of the top recommendations of a consulting company hired by the city to develop a strategy to get Indian investors to put their money into Abbotsford businesses.

But despite the flashy title, the job itself would entail a less-glamorous combination of trade promotion, monthly reports back to Abbotsford, and – when needed – co-ordinating and arranging visits to India for other city representatives.

A “Mr./Ms. Abbotsford,” as envisioned by Tractus Asia, would be hired to be the city’s on-the-ground local trade representative in India. The person would be tasked with promoting Abbotsford to Indian companies and governmental departments, and developing relationships with the goal of bringing in more investment, according to the report, which was to be presented to the city’s business, innovation, growth and attraction committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Canadian and B.C. trade representatives on the ground in India aren’t allowed to promote specific cities, the report notes.

“Indian investors prefer a relationship-based approach through a single in-market point-of-contact for communication and meetings, and are notoriously slow to respond to emails and phone calls from foreign countries,” the report says.

A Mr. or Ms. Abbotsford would also provide monthly reports on their activities and continued analysis and information about the Indian investment market.

One major task of any new hire would be overturning misconceptions about Abbotsford, Canada, and municipalities in general.

The consultants found that “there was a consistent lack of awareness about the city of Abbotsford” among potential investors in India.

“When familiar with Abbotsford, it was often misperceived as a location where development processes are bureaucratic, cumbersome and time-consuming,” the report said.

Canada, in general, was seen as a “highly regulated market having lengthy time-consuming bureaucratic and regulatory hurdles.”

Complicating matters is the fact that municipalities in India are also seen as obstacles to doing business. The report says there is an “urgent need to correct this perception through targeted marketing of Abbotsford as a business destination for select industry sectors.”

Any effort to attract foreign investment should focus on the agriculture, aerospace and manufacturing sectors, and emphasize Canada’s immigration policies, the University of the Fraser Valley’s Indian links, and the city’s transportation connections and proximity to the United States and Pacific consumers.

The report cost $30,000, with the City of Abbotsford paying half and the remainder coming from the federal government’s Invest Canada Community Initiatives Program.

The report follows the city’s original Flying Higher in Abbotsford 2015 foreign direct investment study, which identified existing links between the city and India.

FROM 2015: Consultants suggest rebranding airport

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