BMO, together with United Way Greater Toronto, the City of Toronto, community leaders, and private sector partners, is piloting a new approach to promoting economic vitality in areas of the city where it is lacking. The work is guided by the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO) Leadership Table. Established in October 2018 by BMO and United Way Greater Toronto, the ILEO Leadership Table brought together business leaders to identify ways businesses could advance more inclusive economic growth.
Greater Golden Mile, a commercial district in Scarborough that is one of Canada’s first model industrial parks, is the setting for the partnership’s first set of pilot projects. It’s also an area of the city where big changes are on the horizon, spurred in part by significant public transit infrastructure investments. Large private redevelopments will follow, bringing greater population density as people seek to take advantage of the new Eglinton Crosstown LRT for convenient transportation across the city. As the area grows and changes, the challenge is to find ways to ensure that economic opportunities that come with that growth benefit existing residents, who often don’t experience the uplift that is experienced by investors and new homeowners in the community.
One of the new pilot projects taking shape through the ILEO Leadership Table is aimed squarely at that goal: a Joint Venture that will undertake construction-related projects in the Greater Golden Mile in partnership with Aecon, an industry leader in the development and construction of infrastructure.
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Not only will existing community members be employed in all facets of the new business, the community itself will own and control 51% of it (Aecon and partners will own the remaining 49%). The timing is right and the opportunity is great: the Joint Venture will be designed to meet growing supply chain needs for construction/maintenance contracts in part resulting from the Eglinton Crosstown LRT expansion and the redevelopment it has catalysed.
“Over the next decade, Greater Golden Mile will see a scale of development that is unparalleled in the GTA,” explains John M. Beck, Executive Chairman of Aecon Group, Inc., who leads the Joint Venture pilot on behalf of the ILEO Leadership Table. “By training and hiring local residents who will eventually run the company, we are not only creating jobs for today, we are putting business ownership and direction in the hands of the community for the long term.”
The objective of the Joint Venture is to approach community/private sector partnership in a new way. Past models for ensuring communities benefit economically from planned development have largely focused on securing jobs during the construction phase. The Joint Venture is different: it will not only provide jobs, but also build assets for the community for the long term and, critically, put control of them in the hands of the community. Both of these pilots help the Golden Mile community build equity that maximizes the economic potential of neighbourhood revitalization for long-term and durable impact. As the community grows, the hope is that so too will the Joint Venture and the small businesses that were supported by the catalyser at their inception, creating more jobs and more prosperity for the Golden Mile.