I have been mulling this post for some time, so with some time on my hands while I wait for a callback, it’s go time.
I’ve been struck recently by how significant portions of this community appear to be a in funk about Brantford.
As an example, those who’ve met me in person or spent time speaking with me are likely aware that it’s my intent to move from my current abode in Ingersoll to Brantford some time in 2012. I like living in the community where I work. In my industry in particular, I see it as an asset. I don’t feel like as much of an outsider when I actually live in the community I report on.
In January, someone I met told me not to move to Brantford. When I accepted this position, someone I worked with in Woodstock (who lives in Brant County) called the city a “s—hole.” Several other times, I’ve seen that downtrodden perspective reflected in offhand comments about this city. Recently, one person suggested that until the final group of employees who worked at the city’s then-dominant powerhouse manufacturers passes on, this city will always find itself in a funk. Certainly, more recent challenges such as First Nations land-development protests have put a damper on this city and perpetuate its funk.
Counter that with those who take extreme exception to the city being continually characterized in a negative light. City Hall is home to a number of offices whose zeal to promote all the city is doing well is only exceeded when pouncing on those who might dare bring up anything negative. It’s led to breakfasts of champions, a rebranding and marketing committee and other efforts.
As the outsider, there are many things that impress me about Brantford. The revitalization in the downtown is particularly impressive— I have an open invitation to bring family members to Harmony Square whenever they visit. Other family members raved about the Canadian Military Heritage Museum (a hidden gem, if you ask me) and other local heritage sites. I’ve been impressed by every city park I’ve been to and when complete the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre will definitely win when compared to any municipal rec facility in this country.
As the outsider, I’ve also been impressed by how friendly and welcoming people have been. Funk or not, be it in the more official circles I navigate as a journalist or others, I’ve never been on the receiving end of an unwelcoming vibe. Only one person has ever suggested my lack of residency / history should serve to discredit me.
Given the market and other conditions, there is economic growth here too— not in a thousands of jobs way, but then show me any Canadian community that’s had that happen in its borders since the Toyota announcement (which was in 2005, I might add). Companies, in new sectors, are coming here— and some are staying when they haven’t been scared off by the funk.
So as the outsider, for what it’s worth, it’s time this city get out of its funk.