EcDev Journal

Business Roundtables: Collaborative BR+E in Toronto

Posted on Saturday February 17, 2018
Councillor Vincent Crisanti -Ward 1 North Etobicoke
Councillor Vincent Crisanti -Ward 1 North Etobicoke

Business Roundtables: Collaborative BR+E in Toronto

According to Tony Robbins, "identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions".  Business Roundtable events are essential within our community to ensure that problems are found and our collective power and energy are put towards finding solutions.  The primary objective is to share and promote programs and services provided by the City and its partners while also providing a forum for local politicians and staff to hear directly from businesses regarding issues, challenges, and opportunities that are connected to their operations.  This helps the City understand how to improve their services and programs to accommodate the needs of business.  Furthermore, roundtables recognize that Toronto's local business community makes an immense contribution to the development of our city by providing job opportunities which allows for growth and sustainability.  Lastly, it signals that the City is "open for business", supportive of the needs of businesses and committed towards fostering a competitive environment. 

The City of Toronto’s Economic Development Department provides support and assistance by helping businesses reach their full potential.  With the assistance of City staff, business meet challenges by maximizing opportunities through a range of programs and services targeted towards start up entrepreneurs, medium and large businesses looking to expand, and sector specific stakeholders. 

Councillor Vincent Crisanti of Ward 1 from the City of Toronto has hosted 12 Business Roundtables since 2010 which have focused on tackling a variety of issues faced by the business community.  He has discussed topics that have ranged from City services, Grants, Brexit, Workforce Planning, Hydro Services, Export, Retail and Specific Sectors of interest.  The help and support of City Economic Development Office for these events has led to the contribution to the vibrancy of local businesses in the community.  Councillor Crisanti believes that while politicians have the ability to create a positive economic climate for investors, it is with the engagement of business communities and investors that ideas of development and sustainability are implemented.  These individuals are critical to the creation of jobs and growth in the local economy.   

Councillor Crisanti has been committed to create an environment that is pro-business by positively leading the growth of his Business Roundtable meetings, maximizing its contribution to the development of a sustainable and growing local economy. 

Roundtable meetings guarantee that the community is aware of transformations in their City and it allows them the opportunity to contribute to the advancements of such dynamic changes in the community.  Councillor Crisanti 12th Business Roundtable was focused on how businesses can reach their full potential through programming by Partners in Project Green who are committed to helping businesses turn sustainable practices into bottom-line results.  David Jollimore, Director of Real Estate Services discussed major transformative initiatives taking place at the City.  The purpose of connecting business owners with staff like Jollimore is to ensure they are able to discuss and be aware of the City’s responsibility, and the best use of our assets when retaining and attracting talent. 

Tremendous progress has been made because of the coordinative efforts of bringing businesses together with city staff.  The renovation, expansion, and redevelopment of Etobicoke General Hospital has begun to initiate a revitalization of the facility which will have an approximate 250,000 square feet of space for the hospital to house the services that is most urgently needed by the community it serves.  This will ensure that the public has access to the programs and services they need most. Furthermore, to assure that individuals have access and reliable transportation to receive programs and services, the City will introduce an 11 kilometre light rail transit (LRT) line that will allow for easier commute across Toronto.  This will be the first LRT that will pass through to Etobicoke, allowing residents to flow in and out of the City with ease and affordability.  This Finch West LRT will terminate at Humber College with future plans to extend south to the Woodbine Racetrack and beyond to Pearson Airport.  

Another positive redevelopment within the community will be the revitalization of the Woodbine Mall which proposed to build three theaters, a 500 room hotel with a water park, and over 3,000 condo units.  This project will create numerous jobs and much needed realty taxes for the city. The Woodbine Racetrack, located across from the mall has its own expansion plans with a Casino development slated to start in late 2018.  Woodbine Racetrack expanded gaming will be the catalyst for a revitalization of the surrounding area. 

Recently, 51 Panorama Court, which is owned by the Provincial Government, has been identified to undergo an infill development opportunity.  The former Thistletown Regional Centre will provide a large-scale infill development opportunity in the City with access to transit along Finch Avenue.  The 28 acres of the land will be used for development, while the rest will be dedicated towards conservation. 

Business Roundtables allow for businesses to be aware of future developments and changes within the community and how the City strives to make it efficient and accommodating.  An example of this would include the temporary easement of 0.47 acers of developable land and 1.03 acres of conservation land that will be given to Metrolinx for the construction of the Finch West LRT.  This will allow for business owners and employees to partake in economically friendly transportation methods by 2022, reduce traffic congestion, and make best use of the TTC.

One of the greatest issues our City faces today is the lack of green initiatives.  The main goal of the 12th Business Roundtable is to ensure that savings in energy, waste, and water are found and implemented in the most effective way possible.  Partners in Project Green strive to make sure that businesses turn sustainable practices into bottom line results.  They are an umbrella organization that works alongside Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) by focusing on key efficiency areas such as, water stewardship, energy performance, waste management, and communications and engagement to enhance the business climate in the community.  Their vision is to implement programs like storm water infrastructure, water auditing, and innovative water technologies to maximize opportunities for business owners.  They understand the current challenges the industry faces in respect to water and wastewater infrastructure, including lack of imposing regulatory oversight, high capital investment requirements for new installations, lack of funding, inability to replace aging infrastructure and the long-term impact economic decisions have on the community.  Their main goal is to collaborate with different levels of government to maximize opportunities in processing water resources, enhance participation of industries in the existing water auditing programs, and to increase the update of such programs through outreach.  By collaborating with the City of Toronto and other cities to discuss the impact of water and wastewater infrastructure, businesses can identify what opportunities are available for them to use.  

Councillor Crisanti strives to ensure that local businesses have the ability to communicate and interact with key organizations within the City, allowing them to improve their business and become environmentally feasible.  By creating an outlet for discussions and ideas to flow, concerns can be heard and effective solutions can be implemented.  Surveys at the end of each Roundtable are distributed also to acknowledge the advice community members and staff have regarding improvements that need to be made to each meeting.  Furthermore, individuals have the ability to provide considerations for future topics that can be discussed and addressed with the right City staff and collaborating organizations.