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Heads up: An exciting new initiative is offering opportunities in your neighbourhood

March 25, 2024 by Camilla Faragalli

The Toronto Observer
Centennial College
Four people stand in front of a yellow booth with ILEO Community Storefront written in black letters on the side and filled with small jars of products.

Golden Mile residents and business owners: 

The Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO) Initiative is a project in your neighbourhood that is connecting residents of the Greater Golden Mile with exciting opportunities. It’s a project about hope — and about taking concrete action through job training, employment opportunities, buying local products, and supporting local businesses in a rapidly changing area and more. 

What does this mean? 

It means ILEO is harnessing economic opportunity — at the neighbourhood level. The Greater Golden Mile is set both economically and socially to experience a major transition — and soon. A series of large redevelopments planned in Toronto will soon be changing the face of the neighbourhood, bringing more than 35,000 proposed residential units to the area in 75 high- and mid-rise buildings. What’s more, three nearby transit lines are also under construction.

This, in combination with a demonstrated need in the community, are the reasons United Way Greater Toronto and its co-convenor on this project, BMO Financial Group, selected this area as the first to launch ILEO, ensuring that residents and local businesses benefit from the change that’s in the air. ILEO includes five pilot projects for residents of the postal codes M4A, M3C, M1L, M1K and M1J. Each project takes action on a priority identified by local residents — good jobs, building community ownership and affordable housing — and connects them with opportunities. 

“Thank you, to the United Way, for making it happen.”

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow

The pilot projects include: 

1. Aecon Golden Mile (A-GM) Joint Venture 

Are you interested in a career in the building trades and construction industry? A-GM is a new joint construction venture, that recruits, trains and hires workers from the Greater Golden Mile.

Forty-nine per cent of the project is owned by Aecon, one of Canada’s leading construction companies. The other 51 per cent is owned by the Centre for Economic Opportunity, a nonprofit created by 10 community organizations in the neighbourhood. Profits generated from the venture will be invested back into the community. 

2. ILEO Good Jobs 

Are you looking for a job? Do you live in the Greater Golden Mile? This free program can help you connect with a high-quality, full-time job that pays a living wage. 

3. Inclusive Procurement 

This initiative helps connect small and medium-sized suppliers in your area to large corporate partners to buy your products. 

4. ILEO Storefront Starter 

Do you have a business idea you want to take to the next level? This free program is for you. The ILEO Storefront Starter Golden Mile helps new and aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners launch your business ideas. 

5. Destination Golden Mile 

With the Greater Golden Mile set to grow in the coming years, ILEO is working with partners across sectors to explore ways to deliver more affordable housing. United Way Greater Toronto and BMO Financial Group are dedicated to making sure ILEO’s programs accurately reflect the community’s wants and needs.

More than 150 local residents and small business owners have already benefited from them. Focusing on different aspects of inclusive economic opportunity, these pilot programs are tailor-made to respond to the strengths, needs, and desires of residents in the Greater Golden Mile. The hope is that the initiative will be rolled out to other areas of Toronto.

“We’ve got something here that is a wonderful community solution, that may be scaled to other communities as well,” said UWGT President and CEO Daniele Zanotti. “This could act as a blueprint for other neighbourhoods going through transformation and gentrification across the GTA.”

That’s an idea that excites Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who supports how ILEO is connecting neighbourhood residents with new prospects.

“In the city of Toronto, we are a city of neighbourhoods. Local economic development that benefits the businesses and residents, creates good jobs, good training, and more housing, is exactly what I want to see across the city,” she said.

“Thank you, to the United Way, for making it happen.”

ILEO is already catching people’s attention because of its innovative approach to supporting the community. The Urban Economy Forum, an international nonprofit organization, recently recognized it as one of Canada’s frontrunner initiatives for Urban Sustainable Development Goals.

This story was produced as part of a partnership between Centennial College journalism students and United Way Greater Toronto.

United Way ILEO and CIEO Golden Mile

The Centre for Inclusive Economic Opportunity, Golden Mile (CIEO) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2020 by 10 community organizations to expand economic opportunities for residents of the Greater Golden Mile.

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