Advancing Vaughan’s economy in 2023: Reflecting on a year of talent-driven economic development

This article was contributed by Raphael Costa, Director, Vaughan Economic Development

The lifeblood of any city’s economy is its residents. They make up the talent pool upon which our businesses and culture thrive.

A city must attract, retain and support residents to grow its economy. As KPMG’s Magnet Cities group has attested, residents bring ideas, capital and social networks into their communities. This leads to “new ideas … [that] help to establish new businesses, social networks and infrastructure. Restaurants, shops and bars blossom. Visitors appear and spend money. Big business is lured in by the buzz and new operations are established in the never-ending battle for talent.”

To maintain the largest economy in York Region, and attract and retain top talent and businesses, Vaughan has become a talent-driven economic development city. In 2023, Vaughan delivered on, or set in motion, several major initiatives that solidify the city as a destination for talent and business.

Talent development is an important aspect of local economic development. Businesses need talent to launch and grow. More than that, our city needs talent to help local culture thrive!

The City of Vaughan puts talent development front and centre by supporting its residents in four key areas, including skills and training support, placemaking, housing and transit.

Here’s how the City is contributing to workforce development and resident retention:



Skills and training support

Typically, skills and training development for residents is provided by local educational institutions and organizations. Vaughan is fortunate to have a wealth of world-class partners and is working to attract more education options for residents.

Everything from trades training to university education can be found here. Those looking for leading construction training are supported by state-of-the-art Vaughan-based training facilities for members of LIUNA Local 183 and the Carpenters’ Union Local 27. Other local organizations like the Skilled Trades College of Canada can help people launch their careers in skilled trades.

Vaughan is also home to Niagara University in Ontario (Niagara U). Niagara U trains tomorrow’s business leaders through a Master of Business Administration, and offers programs in finance, cybersecurity and education.

York University has also been a contributor to Vaughan’s talent and actively works with the City to establish facilities to advance innovation and health. In February 2022, Vaughan Council directed Economic Development to explore the establishment of an entrepreneurship incubator with YSpace York University that will help residents learn the skills needed to excel in business development. What’s more, York University is working to establish a School of Medicine that, alongside ventureLAB and Mackenzie Health, will anchor a national destination for health and healthcare innovation at the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct(PDF). This will help train the healthcare workforce of the future.

To help our local skills development providers, the City, through the Economic Development department, has launched its own skills and training development program. Talent City Vaughan supports not-for-profit organizations in delivering targeted skills training.

In its first year, Talent City Vaughan supported the training of more than 140 residents. From organizations like the The Career Foundation, Vaughan International Film Festival, Human Endeavour, Humanity First Canada and the Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women, Vaughan residents upskilled in furniture manufacturing, translation services, workplace training for newcomers and post-production.

In 2023, residents had access to City-supported training in construction, skilled trades, language training for newcomers and how personal support workers can assist patients with dementia with the addition of new training partners, including Blue Door and COSTI.



Placemaking for attraction and retention

To attract and retain talented residents, the City enables pride of place through placemaking activities. In 2023, this included initiating an exciting public art program, supporting our main streets as gathering places for the community and ensuring a lively event calendar.

Public art is the medium through which a city expresses its identity. The City’s Public Art Program demonstrates that Vaughan is a progressive cultural leader and is at the vanguard of York Region’s art scene. Furthermore, and beyond being public installations for residents to enjoy, public art promotes pride of place and raises the community’s profile among those who live, work and visit here.

Since the City launched the program in 2016, five developer-led installations have opened, with more in the works. In addition to these marquee installations, the City launched a new program, which saw the installation of 12 original works across Vaughan on traffic signal boxes. The ARTonBOXES program aims to have nearly 100 works across Vaughan over the next 10 years.

While the ARTonBOXES program animates Vaughan’s main streets as gathering places for the community, the City’s Vaughan Business and Entrepreneurship Centre (VBEC) supports local brick-and-mortar companies to ensure that residents and visitors can shop, dine and play in Vaughan. The City’s My Main Street program (now closed) and Starter Company Plus program, provide business advisory, research, training, and provincial and federal micro-grants to help businesses build resilience.

VBEC, in partnership with Tourism Vaughan, also operates a Construction Support for Small Businesses resource inventory for any companies impacted by infrastructure construction, especially on business-oriented main streets. The portal is a one-stop-shop for any business that needs help to stay open and competitive during temporary interruptions caused by municipal construction.

The City also delivers its own local events, while supporting many community organization events year-round. Vaughan boasts award-winning events like its annual Vaughan Celebrates Winterfest, Canada Day and Concerts in the Park series. Through Tourism Vaughan, the City helps community organizations operate festivals for residents and visitors to enjoy. helps event organizers find venues and activities for their guests, while is a full calendar of things to do across the city.



Attainable housing development

The City recognizes the need for a mix of housing options to make homes attainable for residents. This has been an ongoing goal of the City’s. Vaughan’s Mayor and Members of Council have completed a series of milestones in recent months to ensure that housing remains attainable. This includes conducting medium- and long-term planning for densification, receiving federal support for housing development and making important changes to zoning.

Gentle densification and select urban intensification offer a broader choice of housing options, including a diverse mix of housing types. This is a key goal in the City’s Official Plan Review, and in a series of secondary plans across Vaughan. In areas like the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC), Yonge Street and Steeles Avenue, Promenade Centre and Vaughan Mills, the City is planning to incorporate urban environments that will provide housing and complete communities to Vaughan: which expects to grow to more than 570,000 people by 2051.

The Official Plan and Secondary Plan initiatives will lead to housing in the medium and long term. However, the City has undertaken a series of projects to see housing become available in the next few years. Recently, for example, Vaughan’s Council directed staff to undertake a bylaw to allow for ‘as of right’ building for up to four units per property. What’s more, Mayor Steven Del Duca announced in October 2023, that under the federal Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), the Government of Canada and the City agreed to expedite the creation of more than 1,700 new housing units. As part of this $59 million federal investment, the HAF will incentivize thousands of additional homes over the next three years.



Transit and transportation development

Moving people throughout and across the city directly affects residents’ quality of life. Led by our Mayor, the City of Vaughan has committed to improving transit and transportation for residents. The City’s Economic Development department is committed to moving Vaughan’s talent and goods efficiently while preparing the city for the next generation of transportation options.

Transit, delivered by York Region Transit (YRT) , is a service that our residents, businesses and those working in Vaughan rely upon every day. Economic Development works with YRT on an ongoing basis to help improve transit where needed. Within the past year alone, that partnership has seen two route improvements to serve our residents, businesses and talent. YRT, with the help of Economic Development, launched Route 361 to help residents and workers get to their jobs in the Vaughan Enterprise Zone. YRT’s 2024 Transit Initiatives in Vaughan include extending Route 20 to service new businesses opening on Jane Street, north of Teston Road.

The City is also looking to the future of people and goods movement. To help our residents and talent prepare for the future, Vaughan has partnered with Markham and the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN) to demonstrate and showcase advanced automotive and smart mobility technologies and solutions, including connected, autonomous, shared and integrated mobility, robotics and electric vehicle solutions. The OVIN Demonstration Zone provides a real-world environment that promotes collaboration to advance the commercialization of automotive technologies and accelerate smart mobility innovation. These technologies have the potential to improve quality of life, while generating new economic opportunities for Ontario.

In 2023, the City delivered a talent-driven economic development program that demonstrated support for and fostered the potential of Vaughan’s residents. As we proceed in 2024, we will work to ensure the resident base that makes up Vaughan’s world-class talent and the lifeblood of our city continues to thrive.

To stay connected with the City of Vaughan’s Economic Development department visit, follow our official LinkedIn page, and sign up for our eNewsletters at