The Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO) Leadership Table is a ground-breaking initiative spearheaded by BMO and United Way Greater Toronto that brings inclusive local economic opportunity to communities where it has been limited. A cornerstone of its strategy is to fully understand local needs and then innovate, with private sector, civic and community partners, to develop targeted approaches.
Working with City of Toronto experts, the ILEO leadership table has chosen a community for its first set of pilot projects: the Greater Golden Mile, a commercial district in Scarborough that is one of Canada’s first model industrial parks. With significant public transit infrastructure investments such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, large private redevelopments and potential corporate partnerships coming to the area, opportunity abounds; the challenge is to ensure the local community derives direct economic benefits from those developments.
That’s just what the Small Business Catalyser pilot program aims to do. Led by RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust in partnership with PwC Canada, the pilot makes commercial space accessible and available for local entrepreneurs to create thriving retail businesses in their community. The pilot program aims to support three local businesses in the first year.
How does it work? The program provides space with discounted rent for a prescribed period of time, complemented by coaching, business plan development support and access to credit. The Small Business Catalyser will accelerate emerging local businesses which have the potential to take advantage of the increased foot traffic in the area spurred by residential development and transit, and overall economic growth. Because many small businesses face challenges stabilizing and growing in their first three years of operation, the program provisions are intended to facilitate a smoother ramp-up and ultimately successful growth that will enable the businesses to inject economic vitality into their community and, critically, local jobs.
Jonathan Gitlin, RioCan REIT’s President and Chief Operating Officer, leads the pilot, working alongside community leaders, City staff, the United Way team and experts from PwC Canada, BMO, and other private sector partners. “The objective of the Small Business Catalyser is to leverage the skillsets required to make a business successful, including legal, business, real estate, and marketing,” explains Mr. Gitlin, “Adding those wrap-around supports to the provision of low-cost space for an established period of time provides a great model to support an entrepreneur who has a viable idea for a business, but lacks access to some of those areas of expertise and/or the resources to grow in those critical first few years of operation.”
The Small Business Catalyser targets local small businesses that will bring necessary goods and services to Golden Mile residents and, just as importantly, contribute to local community culture. The intent is that after three years within the program, successful program participants will be on a growth trajectory necessary to leave the supports behind and thrive independently.
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Learn more about how BMO and the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity project are working with communities to foster economic inclusion.