A year in reviewEconomic Recovery Action Plan2021 highlightsKey initiatives and impact summary reportMilton Education Village updateBuilding Possibility: Trend reportLooking forward

2021: Forward momentum through recovery

Last year marked the final year of Milton’s current Economic Development Strategic Plan, and with it, the successful realization of many initiatives.

The Economic Development team was able to forge ahead with several significant and long-term objectives that directly support Milton’s corporate priorities, as laid out in the Council Staff Work Plan.

Using Milton’s Economic Recovery Action Plan framework established in early 2020, Milton continued to implement initiatives in response to the pandemic and changing provincial mandates. Working to enter the third and final phase of the Action Plan, meant continuing to lead key business support services and programming aimed at assisting the community’s recovery, while proactively engaging in the development of a new strategic plan. 

The following 2021 Annual Report summary is intended to provide a brief synopsis of some of the key activities, highlights and economic impacts from the work completed by the Economic Development team over the last year.

As we move through 2022, and prepare to implement a new strategy, it is clear Milton Economic Development will have a significant role to play in:

  • the community’s recovery and continued evolution
  • supporting and attracting new investment
  • creating local opportunities for both residents and businesses
  • engaging innovative partners in work that will contribute to a higher quality of life in Milton.

A year-in-review: Recovery, research and planning

Milton’s Economic Recovery Action Plan

In April 2020, a three-phased strategy and action plan was launched as a crisis response initiative for the Economic Development team to help address the changing needs of business over the course of the pandemic.

As the immediate crisis response and information gathering activities began to subside through 2020, the implementation of phase two business support and recovery initiatives became a focus that has remained an essential element of the work done throughout 2021, in order to provide continuity of business support services, particularly for small and medium busin;esses and the hardest hit sectors.  

Economic Recovery Action Plan

                 Phase 1                                                        Phase 2                                                      Phase 3


By spring of 2021, phase three (Economic Stimulation Analysis and Planning) was also well-underway. Plans are to continue Covid-19 recovery, related to phase two activities and business support through 2022.

Economic Recovery Action Plan: Activities

  • Leading Milton’s Economic Recovery Task Force
  • Managing over 250 Covid-19 related inquiries for the local business community in 2021, and over 500 inquiries since the pandemic began (March 2020)
    • Legislation implementation inquiries related to vaccine passports
    • Creation of workplace vaccine policy plans and implementation resources
    • Rapid testing kits for businesses
    • Temporary staffing support
    • Funding and relief program navigation
  • Developing and maintaining a virtual business support centre on Milton’s website and through one-on-one interactions with local businesses, to support access to changing business recovery resources and information.
  • Developing and leading new business recovery initiatives to assist the hardest hit small business and retail sectors (Temporary Patio Program, Digital Main Street: Service Squad, Chamber Covid-19 webinar series)
  • Partnering on “Shop Local’ campaigns and initiatives with the Milton Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Improvement Area
  • Outreach, research and advocacy in partnership with all levels of government on behalf of businesses for additional programming, funding and initiatives that support long-term recovery based on local needs
  • Ongoing business research through surveys, one-on-one meetings, corporate calls, and new economic data investments (i.e. Equifax – Economic Impacts of Pandemic).

2021 highlights

Economic Development: Ongoing activities

While the team continued to focus on executing Milton’s Economic Recovery Action Plan, traditional economic development services were still ongoing in order to achieve longer term objectives.

These activities can be related to:

  • Pursuing long-term economic initiatives fundamental to the Economic Development Strategic Plan for attraction, growth and innovation
  • Supporting continued Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional development and working closely with prospective developers, site selectors, realtors and investors to broaden awareness of the opportunities in Milton
  • Helping our innovative local business community grow and scale their businesses to retain local entrepreneurs and enterprises.  

Impact in numbers

  • Successfully secured Ministry Zoning Order to speed development in Milton Education Village land
  • Hired and led the Town’s first Digital Service Squad to assist 470 small businesses
  • Brought nearly $40,000 in Transformation Grants funding into the community and directly into the hands of small businesses
  • Responded to over 150 investment inquiries related to business retention, relocation, and expansion in 2021, and 250 Covid-19 related business inquiries for support services, resources and guidance
  • Supported 2.2 million square feet in expansion of and new Industrial, Commercial and Institutional development in 2021
  • Maintained a steady non-residential assessment ratio (23%)
  • Broke ground on new industrial development site for growing business. Princess Auto expanding into new approximately 500,000 sq. ft. building in Derry Green Business Park
  • Supporting the ongoing and streamline development process for 9,418,390 sq. ft. of industrial development, either newly constructed or now proposed, for Derry Green Corporate Business Park.

Key initiatives and impact summary report

Policy advocacy

Through regular input and engagement with our local business community, it was identified that a number of policy issues could be supported to improve local business conditions for recovering businesses. These efforts included:

  • Supporting the creation of Local Network Enhancements to Connectivity through a regional working group, which led to securing pilot projects for Milton neighbourhoods

  • Providing guidance and informational sessions on Milton’s local growth policies in support of economic resiliency and future growth plans for the Regional Official Plan Review. Offered expertise and recommendations on the development of longer-term strategy.

  • Ensuring Milton's local response aligned with other levels of government, while adhering to the Province’s plans for re-opening Ontario’s economy.

Leading Milton’s Temporary Patio Program through second successful season 

With Council support, Economic Development staff led the implementation of Milton’s second official season of the Temporary Patio Program to support local restaurants through the challenges of Covid-19 restrictions, which continued to strain the food retail and hospitality industries. As a recovery initiative and continued pilot program, the Town allowed restaurants to apply for outdoor patio extensions, waiving fees to help enhance the recovery of the downtown.
  • In 2021, Milton processed and issued permits to over 30 restaurants across the community
  • Staff provided concierge service to assist applicants in using digital self-serve site plan tools to assist in permit process – helping all restaurants participating in the program be mapped and promoted by the Town
  • One hundred per cent of participating restaurants provided positive feedback on the pilot program experience
  • The program directly supported participating restaurants in recouping revenues by anywhere from 20 to as much as 80 per cent
  • Participating restaurants reported hiring between five to 15 net new employees because of the program
  • Nearly 100 per cent of restaurants that took part in 2021, and participated in the Milton survey, indicated they intend to take part in 2022

Led Milton's second Digital Service Squad Program

In 2021, Milton successfully secured $25,000 in additional funding to lead Milton’s Digital Main Street 2.0 program. Transitioning ownership of the program from the DBIA, Milton hired a new dedicated temporary Town staff resource and administered the program internally launching the first Town-led Digital Service Squad serving Milton businesses inside and outside of the downtown core. The expansion of this program to include small businesses outside of the original Main Street downtown location, resulted in this program being able to assist over 470 local businesses.

Digital Main Street provides support in three ways:

  • the Digital Service Squad (DSS) who provide guidance on digital transformations
  • directly, with squad support with drafting Digital Transformation Grants 
  • assisting with ecommerce integration and development through the ShopHERE program.

Through the program, staff spend more than 200 hours supporting small businesses in Milton in less than six weeks. In addition to assisting businesses receive almost $40,000 in direct government grants through the digital transformation grant program, this initiative also helped nearly 50 local businesses apply for the “ShopHere” program, empowering owners to run and maintain their own ecommerce business presence.

Shop Local campaign

Partnership with the Chamber of Commerce

Through Economic Development, the Town proudly supported the Chamber of Commerce in an Ontario Chamber funded “Shop Local” campaign in October 2021. The program helped to promote and market local retail and commercial businesses, gave away local gift cards, reusable shopping bags, and rallied the community in support of local small businesses just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Research analysis: Enhancements to economic data

Piloted new data sources to support internal decision making and Recovery Action Plan Execution

Milton partnered with Equifax Canada to gather credit data and map key economic indicators from our local businesses ensuring targeted business support services were provided.

The initiative included:

  • Creating an interactive and visual community information hotspot map, that indicates the economic health of businesses within the community
  • Analyzing trends in the data helped to better target business retention and expansion efforts and support recovery, tracking and reporting on economic changes in the community
  • Monitoring specific industry data supported decision-making on the impacts and success of recovery initiatives for industries hit hardest by the pandemic (i.e. restaurants involved in the Temporary Patio Program).

CanExport 2021: Funded research project through Community Investment Fund

In 2020, Milton identified a significant gap in the community’s existing investment readiness package and proposed a multi-year, multi-phase project that would help to update key sector and market data, identify investment trends, and provide in-depth community research to support recovery, business retention and attraction activities.

With successful approval of initial funding Economic Development worked with MDB Insights to identify five target sectors of opportunity for investment attraction, identify a detailed list of target markets, and gathered a list of immediate recommendations and action items that would help to support future recovery, retention and attraction efforts within the community. 

The first phase of this foundational research project has enhanced the Economic Development division’s capacity to support partner-initiated investment attraction and FDI activities by providing up-to-date industry insights, a clear sector focus for future initiatives, and new market data supporting recovery. It has also been a foundational piece informing Milton’s new five-year Economic Development Strategy. In late 2021, another successful application was approved for a second round of funding to begin executing on the recommendations from the 2021 project.

This renewed investment will help to facilitate the following recommendations from phase one of Milton’s CanExport-supported project and will commence in 2022:

  • Build upon Milton’s existing online Economic Development datahub tool and digital assets to showcase Milton’s target sectors, subsectors and the supports and opportunities for foreign investors
  • Develop investor-focused marketing materials for target sectors
  • Ensure all data collected from lead generation activities is stored in a client relationship management program to track progress, ensure follow-up and aftercare
  • Support the implementation of a sector-based business retention and expansion program that includes regular engagement with local businesses (especially those with FDI/export potential)
  • Analyze and report on key performance metrics and track FDI projects to capitalize on emerging opportunities and support regional FDI partner initiatives

Local and regional committees

Through 2021 the Economic Development team represented the Town on a number of local and regional Committees, such as:

  • GTA Economic Recovery Alliance Working Group
  • Milton Economic Development Advisory Group
  • Peel Halton Workforce Board
  • Halton Region Tourism & Retail Committee
  • Milton Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Group
  • Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (AMS) Halton Working Group

Milton Education Village update

In 2021, Milton received Provincial approval on a Minister’s Zoning Order to expedite development on the MEV site. At full build out, it is estimated that the MEV could accommodate over 12,000 residents and 2,500 knowledge-based industry jobs.

Throughout 2021, Milton’s post-secondary partners continued to establish a presence in the community and make plans for their developments on the MEV site.

In January 2020, Laurier launched their first degree (Masters of Education) and professional development (Faculty of Social Work) programs in Milton. The first group of students started attending class in person at the MEV Innovation Centre, before moving online due to the pandemic.

In late 2020, Conestoga College formally opened their first classroom space in Milton, offering flexible test space for students.

With the Milton Education Village (MEV) Secondary Plan approved, and the recent approval of the Minister’s Zoning Order by the Province to expedite development, plans for the MEV are moving forward at a rapid pace. To continue this momentum and support the vision for the MEV, Economic Development announced it was teaming up with partners at Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College and Haltech Regional Innovation Centre on a brand new joint venture aimed at enhancing innovation and entrepreneurship for the entire region.

With Milton Council support, these key partners, now jointly identified as the Innovation Collective, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Monday, September 13 2021, formally committing to a project that could lead to a new, cutting-edge Town-University-College-Innovation Hub, centrally-located within Milton.

With this agreement in place, the Innovation Collective partners can now tackle the development of a strategy, seek opportunities for provincial and federal funding, and begin the creation of a unique multi-faceted offering in Milton that will enhance regional innovation, business acceleration, local entrepreneurial supports and academic excellence.

Immediate priorities of the Innovation Collective, include:

  • Identifying and working together to target initiatives that support economic recovery and pandemic-induced barriers to workforce development
  • Building support for innovation opportunities in key sectors, including but not limited to, environmental/sustainable engineering, climate change management, and green technologies
  • Prioritizing regional-specific needs that support the growth and scale of start-ups and SME’s
  • Building equitable products, services, and content designed to foster a thriving inclusive innovation community – locally, regionally and provincially.

To assist the Innovation Collective in putting plans together, Economic Development has brought on a consultant from the Planning Group to facilitate the development of a strategy that will guide the action plan over the next several years.

Building Possibility: Trend report

A Year-at-a-glance (Industrial, Commercial, Institutional Development)

Milton Economic Development plays a vital role in supporting sustainable development and further growth. We work to create a balanced and diversified tax base for capital projects that improve the quality of life in the community.

Non-Residential Development in 2021
  • 177 ICI permit applications received
  • 145 permits issued
  • 2.2 million sq. ft. in ICI building permits
  • $316,117,515 of ICI construction value
  • Twenty-three per cent of Milton’s total Weighted Assessment is Non-Residential


Milton Industrial Market
  • Industrial vacancy rate - zero per cent
  • Industrial inventory - 21,518,919 sq. ft.
  • Industrial under construction - 1,151,468 sq. ft. 
  • Average net lease rate/per sq. ft. - $11.95 
  • Average asking sale price/per sq. ft. - $338.90 

Source: CBRE, GTA Industrial Market Report Q4 2021

Development activities 


Industrial space continued to be in high demand through 2021, despite limited supply with availability dropping to a low of 1.2 per cent in the GTA (which is below the national average). There is no doubt that it is a tight market despite construction activity. Both land purchase prices and leasing prices for industrial space have seen steady growth, with the average land purchase price for industrial space (per square foot) sitting at $288, and average asking rent (per square foot) sitting around $10.75. With purchase prices hitting the middle mark for averages in the GTA west market, lease rates are still relatively affordable and on the lower end when compared to the other GTA west industrial markets that topped out at $13.77 sq. ft. (Oakville) in Q3 of 2021.  

Derry Green tenants
  • DSV ­– North American Head Office – global transportation and logistics facility
  • Edgewell Personal Care – distribution warehouse facility
  • Lululemon – distribution warehouse facility
  • Orlando Future Tenant - Princess Auto distribution warehouse expanding in Milton from 300,000 into a new 500,000 sq. ft. facility in Derry Green, broke ground on their new facility in 2021.

Office – High Point (future development)

Due to the pandemic, office demand dropped drastically through 2020 and 2021, when compared to previous years. A shift in focus to flexible office space, hybrid work and remote options for employers will continue to be the focus for many employers. Milton’s MEV Innovation Centre and the Milton Education Village have a significant role to play in the evolution of office-based work, local talent retention, and future opportunities for business attraction in Milton. Through the new Economic Development Strategy, Milton will continue to closely monitor the demand for this type of development in order to respond to the changing needs of the market to remain competitive, by working closely with the development community and academic partners to leverage key opportunities that will allow Milton to have a competitive advantage in this changing landscape.

Looking forward: Milton’s new five-year Economic Development Strategy

With a new Economic Development Strategy now approved by Council, Milton Economic Development can forge ahead with key long-term goals while remaining committed to supporting local businesses, our key sectors and community partners that help to fuel growth, enhance entrepreneurial resiliency, and investment in significant projects that enhance the overall quality of life in the community.