Chamber offers help with Brant, city strategies

Jan 07, 2011

Some young local residents leave the community for university and never come back.

Not Steve Portelli.

Born and raised in Brantford, Portelli left the community to pursue a post-secondary education, first in Hamilton and later in Kingston. And, after finishing law school, he spent a couple of years working in Toronto.

"I came back to Brantford seven years ago and, yes, I'm glad to be home," Portelli, a lawyer at Waterous Holden Amey Hitchon, the city's largest law firm, said Thursday.

On Jan. 1, he took over as president of the Chamber of Commerce Brantford-Brant.

"One of the things about being away for a while is that you really do appreciate all that the city has to offer when you return."

Portelli has been part of the chamber since returning to the city. After serving on various chamber committees, he joined the executive, working his way up to the president's job.

"When you get involved with an organization like the chamber, you begin to appreciate the community in other ways."

Married with two children, Portelli, a graduate of St. John's College, said he looks forward to the next year.

"I think there are a lot of positive things happening in the community right now," he said.

"Certainly, there has been a lot of growth with the two universities -Laurier and Nipissing -and, hopefully, we'll see some positive news with respect to Mohawk College here, as well."

One of the chamber's priorities for 2011 is to work on economic development with Brant County and the city.

"The city and the county have both put in place strategic plans and we want, as a chamber, to assist both of them in any way we can," Portelli said.

The chamber also is working with local companies that are having difficulty bidding on county construction projects.

"One of the issues that came forward from our membership was the issue of bid bonds with local contractors," Portelli said.

"Local contractors sometimes have difficulty bidding on jobs in the county because they are required to put a cash deposit down with their bid. We have approached the county and asked them to re-evaluate this and ask them to accept bid bonds instead of cash deposits."

He said that the issue is important because it levels the playing field for smaller contractors that might have cash-flow issues.

A longstanding issue for the chamber is property taxes. Portelli said the chamber will work with both municipal councils on ensuring fairness for the business tax class with respect to property taxes.

"This has been an issue for a long time and we know it will be an ongoing issue but we're going to continue to work with the councils."

As part of its overall goal to help economic development, the chamber is also continuing to work on its Green Energy Hub plan to attract international and national green energy companies to the area that includes Brantford, Six Nations and Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties, he said.

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