Leaside Industrial Area. Leaside Business Park. Both the same physical area, but as times change, so do names. And according to Ian Morton, the founder and executive chairman of Summerhill on Commercial Rd., there may be a new name denoting a Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the not-so-distant future.
There certainly was a time when the municipal strength of the Town of Leaside was its very healthy industrial area, with a wide range of profitable industries. But in the recent past, many of those long-established industries have moved elsewhere, with retail and residential properties replacing them, or the properties remaining vacant.
This is where Ian Morton’s com-pany, Summerhill, comes into the picture. Ian is prepared to say that most people in Leaside have interacted with his business, even though they are unaware they have. A few years ago, when people turned in their old air-conditioner for a cash rebate, or changed over to LED bulbs with a discount coupon – they were doing business with Summerhill.
The company has many clients, but two – Enbridge and Toronto Hydro – are the ones we all know well. Summerhill implements energy efficiency and demand response programs for these giants. These two, along with other utilities across the country, make Summerhill one of the few remaining Canadian-owned businesses in the field, and also the dominant player in residential energy efficiency program implementation.
As an aside, Ian mentioned to me that environmental service companies have become more specialized over the past few years, and that if he were applying now, at his own company, “I would have a hard time getting a job here – because I don’t have the technical qualifications.”
Summerhill’s original office was near the Summerhill subway station; hence the name. Five years ago, when a condo was going to be built where their office was located, Ian found himself in need of a new space. His scouting efforts turned up a building on Commercial, which looked appealing. Leaside was already familiar to him, as his father had lived on Astor. Ian quickly realized that while his building was ideal for his business, the streetscape wasn’t. When his staff came and went from work as pedestrians, they had to traverse the road, competing with trucks and other fast-moving traffic. Ian praises then Councillor John Parker for seeing the need for a sidewalk and ensuring one was built.
Next up for Ian? He’s putting his efforts into helping to build a thriving BIA for the area, as a way to foster innovation, boost local employment, enhance beautification, and increase security. A BIA steering committee with representatives from a range of businesses in the area has already been established. They are keeping an eye on the DUKE Heights BIA in the west of Toronto, covering the area from Dufferin to Keele and Steeles to Sheppard, which is in a somewhat similar neighbourhood.
Realizing that the glorious industrial past cannot return in its original form, this group is looking for a way forward that grows employment lands locally so there will
be good local jobs for people who live in Leaside or nearby – a worthy objective.