Going Green – Knowledge Mobilization Helped Rural South Simcoe Business Join the Green Economy

In the summer of 2009, the York University Knowledge Mobilization Unit received a knowledge brokering request from Nottawasaga Futures, a community economic development agency serving the South Simcoe Area. They wanted to help rural businesses in South Simcoe make green decisions and wondered if York University help.

The York KMb Unit organized a meeting between Valerie Ryan, CEO of Nottawasaga Futures, Karen Kraft Sloan, then Special Advisor, Climate Change, to the Vice-President Research & Innovation, York, knowledge brokers from the York KMb Unit and researchers from the Faculty of Environmental Studies (including Dean Barbara Rhader), Schulich School of Business and MITACS which runs the MITACS Accelerate program, Canada’s premiere research internship program. Collectively they imagined how rural businesses could save money, become environmentally friendly and create jobs at the same time.

Through York's Experiental Education Program, York undergraduates had a chance to  work with the South Simcoe Economic Alliance and undertook research on:

  • guidance on attracting and retaining investment monies that will drive business growth and enhance the quality of life for the community
  • analysis on the recommendations and results of strategic/core activities arising from two background reports – ECAP and Competitive Analysis 2004
  • analysis of the SSEA website and benchmark it against other Canadian regional economic alliances

Nottawasaga Futures

The York Knowledge Mobilization Unit also brokered introductions to Gerda Wekerle (FES) and Mark Winfield (Schulich). Gerda and Mark supervised graduate students Susan Swail and Michael Weaver respectively.  Susan and Michael received MITACS Accelerate internships and were co-funded by Nottawasaga Futures to develop the business case for the Green Economy Centre. This collaboration was announced on December 23, 2009 in the Bradford West Gwillimbury Topic.

On January 29, 2010 a presentation about the plans for the Green Economy Centre was made to to local area citizens and Counselors. Innisfil Mayor Brian Jackson was quoted in the Innisfil Scope as saying about the collaboration, “It will eventually lead to a new way of life for many local residents, by helping them save money and the environment. It's a very important initiative. It's truly going to make a difference. It's something our communities expect, a greening of our business environment. I believe this will make that happen."  

Michael and Michael

The Green Economy Centre's official launch was on March 26, 2010 to provincial MPPs and Cabinet Ministers, Mayors and municipal Counselors, as well as local area citizens. "It is exactly what is needed in virtually every community across Canada," said MPP Donna Cansfield, the honourary patron for the World Green Building Council and a parliamentary assistant in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "It's where you're going to assimilate and distribute information, gather best practices, allow people to look at their ecological footprint, do carbon deduction, and pulling in the community to give them the tools to have a better life” reported the Innisfil Scope on March 31, 2010. The West Gwillimbury Topic also covered the launch on April 1, 2010.

The Green Economy Centre of South Simcoe launched as an information resource center to help businesses go green and save money.    

FedDev Ontario

The Green Economy Centre then received funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). This funding allowed Nottawasga Futures to hire MITACS intern Susan Swail as the Green Economy Project Manager. 

As of September 2011, the Green Economy Centre had accomplished the following:

  • 843 Businesses contacted through events, workshops and visits and 30% of businesses contacted have participated in the program
  • 217 participants at business workshops
  • 634 Information packages have been sent to businesses requesting information on greening their business
  • 150 funding opportunities listed on the website plus numerous researched resources to help businesses transition to the Green Economy
  • Distributed monthly emails to 67 businesses interested in funding opportunities
  • Developed Green Economy Projects including:  
  • - Exploring Sustainable Planning Opportunities in South Simcoe  

    - Information and Communication Technologies and Green Economic Transition.

  • $1,076,000 approved for green projects since January 2011 resulting in:
  • - Eight 0% interest loans  

    - 237 jobs created and maintained (as identified by business owner)

    - 13% average return on investment in rural areas

    - $289,085 invested by owners

The Green Economy Centre also developed new partnerships with Innisfil Hydro, Powerstream, Enbridge, Excellence in Manufacturing and Partners in Project Green. See the website for a full listing of Green Economy Centre partners.

For the KMb Unit's reflection on lessons learned from working with Nottawasaga Futures to launch the Green Economy Centre please see our blog posted on December 6, 2011.


Read more about the Green Economy Centre

Mobilize This! blog stories covering Nottawasaga Futures and the Green Economy Centre:

Media coverage of the Green Economy Centre: