The Milton Education Village (MEV) Innovation Centre is just completing its first fiscal year. With a soft opening in April, we became fully functional in September with the completion of Phase 2 of our construction. Over the fall we have seen interest in the facility grow with companies using our coworking space and leasing small flexible offices geared toward technology intensive firms.
Our board rooms and meeting spaces are also proving to be quite popular and Wilfrid Laurier University has begun to hold lectures in its class room space.
Much of our early efforts have focused on communicating what the MEV Innovation Centre has to offer to the technology and small business community. We have not spent as much time talking about WHY we are doing this.
Simply put, Milton can’t rely on the type of economic growth we’ve seen during the last decade continuing. Given its location in the GTA, Milton has been very successful in attracting logistics operations and the large scale, and land consuming, facilities that they use. We are not complaining. This tax and assessment growth has allowed us to achieve a level of fiscal balance and the ability to provide the services needed to take care of the Town’s rapidly growing population.
However, the supply of land is not endless and we expect the majority of large sites to be used up over the next ten years. That’s why we are asking ourselves, “what next?”. Better to be thinking about this now than scrambling for an answer in 2024.
This takes us to what we are calling our hidden economy. It has two parts. First, Milton’s population is on average, the youngest in the GTA with an average age of 34 years. It is also highly educated and over 40 percent of the work force is employed in professional and technical occupations. This is a talent pool teaming with entrepreneurship. We estimate that there are already over 3,000 “home based” businesses in town.
Equally important, is the emergence of the Professional/Scientific/Technical sector as a driver of local economic growth. This sector created the most new companies, about 400, over the last five years.
A significant proportion of the companies in the sector are in the computer/systems design and engineering industries. Currently, there are about 1,200 small companies employing about 2,200 people.
We believe that building a more diverse economy will be driven to a large extent by entrepreneurship and the continuing growth of value-added service companies and jobs. The MEV Innovation Centre’s facilities, existing and future entrepreneurship programming is dedicated to achieving this objective.
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