The Vaughan Rising Podcast

Vaughan, Ontario is the place to be. The city’s prime location, business-friendly climate and bold approach to city-building are creating unprecedented opportunities for businesses and residents. Host Michelle Samson takes a deep dive into Vaughan’s most exciting projects and businesses with the leaders making sure Vaughan keeps rising.

Season 2 stories are also available in blog format with a breakdown of practical lessons you can use in your own business. Check out the Vaughan Rising Blog.


Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Subway Station with towers in the background

Season 1: City Building and Mega Developments

Vaughan is the commercial real estate market to watch. Mega developments, a business-friendly climate and a bold approach to city-building are creating unprecedented opportunities for businesses and residents.

Woman wearing a mask and visor

Season 2: COVID Adaptation Stories

We’re talking to Vaughan businesses that are getting creative during COVID. They’re pivoting. They’re innovating. They’re doing what it takes to make it through to the other side.

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  • July 16, 2019

    Vaughan’s economy is booming, citizen and business satisfaction are at 97 per cent and 92 per cent respectively, and mega projects like a brand new downtown and Canada’s first smart hospital are rising from the ground. What made this community transform from a typical suburb to a leader in city-building? Vaughan’s formula for progress is revealed by the City’s chief spokesperson and champion: Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua.

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  • August 20, 2019

    Growth drives business and real estate, and Vaughan is booming. The city of Vaughan had the distinction of being Canada’s fastest-growing municipality between 1996 and 2006, and the people, companies and jobs just keep coming. Vaughan’s Director of Economic and Cultural Development, Dennis Cutajar, tells the story behind the growth and why this city’s location is such a sweet spot.

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  • September 3, 2019

    The Vaughan Enterprise Zone (VEZ) is 1,660 hectares (4,100 acres) of huge opportunity. It’s home to Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CP Rail) largest intermodal terminal, 607 hectares (1,500 acres) of developable land, and big names like Home Depot of Canada Inc., Longo Brothers Fruit Market Inc. and Adidas Canada – and that’s before the Highway 427 extension is built which will increase mobility (opening in 2020).

    The City of Vaughan’s Director of Economic and Cultural Development, Dennis Cutajar, gives an overview while CP Rail’s Managing Director of Domestic Intermodal Sales and Marketing, Rob Nichols, connects the dots on the advantages of having an intermodal terminal within the VEZ.

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  • September 17, 2019

    In part two of our look at the Vaughan Enterprise Zone (VEZ) – home to Canadian Pacific Railway’s largest intermodal terminal, big lots, big buildings, and big names like Home Depot of Canada Inc., Longo Brothers Fruit Market Inc. and Adidas Canada – Craig Williamson, Gary Williamson and Pat Viele from CBRE break down the VEZ’s powerful value proposition for office and industrial users.

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  • October 3, 2019

    Niagara University is an American post-secondary institution that has been offering professional education programs in Ontario for more than 30 years. After a year-long searching process, the university found a permanent Canadian location within Vaughan’s emerging downtown – the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Niagara University President Father James Maher gives us a lesson in site selection and why Vaughan was the place to be for the university.

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  • October 17, 2019

    Vaughan, a city of about 335,000 people, is welcoming the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital in 2020. Back in 2004, the need for a hospital in the city was clear and work began to build York Region’s first new hospital in 30 years. President and CEO Altaf Stationwala shares how Mackenzie Health saw an opportunity to be on the vanguard of healthcare and become Canada’s first smart hospital.

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  • October 29, 2019

    Cortel Group was an early believer in the potential of Vaughan’s new downtown and got development in the area moving with two 37-storey residential towers. Cortel Group President and CEO Mario Cortellucci and Head of Design and Sales Romina Cortellucci share the backstory of how Expo City seemed like a sure bet when the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre was barely off the ground.

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  • November 12, 2019

    The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) has a 34-hectare (84-acre) parcel of land in the VMC, managed by its real estate arm, QuadReal. BCI recently revealed this parcel will become Revel Park, a master-planned community of diverse neighbourhoods designed to inspire creativity. QuadReal Vice President of Development Mike Reel makes the case for thinking beyond bricks and mortar.

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  • November 26, 2019

    The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) is a new kind of downtown beckoning a new kind of community space. The City of Vaughan, the YMCA of Greater Toronto and SmartCentres put their heads together and came up with a state-of-the-art, urban community centre that will serve thousands of residents in Vaughan’s emerging downtown and beyond. The YMCA of Greater Toronto’s President and CEO, Medhat Mahdy, shares how it came together and what we can expect from the YMCA’s newest location.

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  • December 10, 2019

    SmartCentres is known for developing and operating big-box stores and plazas, but in the VMC, they’re working on a very different kind of vision: an urban mixed-use community called SmartVMC. SmartCentres founder Mitch Goldhar explains why he broke out of his low-rise comfort zone, and where he plans to take his legacy project.

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  • September 1, 2020

    For season 2 of the podcast, we’re talking to Vaughan business leaders and entrepreneurs who are getting creative through the ever-evolving COVID-19 restrictions.

    We kick off with the City of Vaughan’s own adaptation story. Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua explains how the City took a cautious approach yet still managed to thrive thanks to a culture of resourcefulness that resulted in 125 innovations and process improvements.

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  • September 15, 2020

    On March 17, 2020, the Government of Ontario declared a State of Emergency to combat COVID-19. Measures included closing bars and restaurants and while they have been offered lifelines like takeout and patio service, physical distancing restrictions are still in place.

    Some restaurants opted to temporarily or permanently close. Many made adjustments to keep business going under the new rules. Others, like Vaughan’s Giro D’Italia, took every opportunity and ran with it.

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  • September 29, 2020

    Stuck on Planet Earth is an alternative rock band made up of Al Capo (bass/vocals), Adam Bianchi (guitars/vocals) and Andrew Testa (drums). If you’re a rock fan, this proudly Vaughan-based trio is infiltrating your radio waves, Spotify playlists, and Instagram feed with a string of catchy singles from their debut album, Beautiful Nowhere.

    And they’re doing it…in COVID lockdown. Beautiful Nowhere was released in June with tight restrictions on social gatherings, and no concerts allowed. In a world where recording artists make most of their money on touring, what made them go for it, and how are they paying the bills?

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  • October 13, 2020

    Pizza Hut Canada (headquartered in Vaughan) has been working for years to create a people-first organization with values like staff empowerment, transparency, trust, communication and inclusivity. 

    When COVID-19 lockdown orders came in March 2020, the company was deeply motivated to maintain their values and team spirit in an era of physical distancing. Pizza Hut Canada’s General Manager and Human Resources Director reveal how they stayed connected, while staying apart.

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  • October 27, 2020

    In the last four years, the Millennial’s Choice brand has grown into a group of companies offering real estate, mortgages, life insurance, and financial literacy education.

    The team was on an upward track and started 2020 with a clear game plan for developing the business. In mid-March, that plan went out the window but Founder and Owner Matthew Ablakan refused to slow down. Instead, he hatched a new plan that doubled down on content creation.

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  • November 10, 2020

    For this episode of Vaughan Rising, we’re getting the startup perspective.

    Hop In Technologies is a logistics software platform that helps employees get to work, particularly in areas outside the metropolitan core where transit service is limited. Hop In fills the last mile gap by arranging shuttles on optimized routes.

    When Ontario shut down most workplaces in mid-March, commuting plummeted. According to Statistics Canada, public transit trips fell 42% in March and 85% in April. Hop In’s model was shaken to the core. Time for a pivot!

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  • November 24, 2020

    Kontrol Energy is a smart building technology company. When the pandemic began, CEO Paul Ghezzi noticed that a lot of their customers started to worry about having service companies like Kontrol on site. More people in a space meant feeling less safe in that space.

    This problem, combined with their expertise in air quality monitoring, was the seed of a big idea: could they develop a technology that detects the COVID-19 virus in the air, in real time?

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  • December 7, 2020

    The College of Carpenters and Allied Trades delivers construction skills courses in its two state-of-the-art facilities in Vaughan. It is home to half of all registered carpenter apprentices in Ontario and provides critical health and safety and continuing education courses for the industry.

    With COVID-19 measures in place, the College can’t train as many people at once as they used to. This has far-reaching effects down the entire pipeline for skilled workers, which was already tight before the pandemic. The College needed to rethink its approach–and fast.

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  • December 22, 2020

    Fruit of the Land is a Vaughan-based retailer and wholesaler that specializes in farm-fresh foods, kosher gift baskets and holiday gifting. They also produce award-winning foods under a family of brands.

    Since the first lockdown in March, co-founders Michael and Stacey Kurtz have fought to survive in their mall-based locations at Promenade, Vaughan Mills and Bayview Village. As a food retailer, they were an essential service but couldn’t operate as such because the malls were closed. Immediately, they started developing an arsenal of strategies to survive and reach their customers.

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  • January 19, 2020

    Chris Carder is the Executive Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Schulich School of Business at York University. He helps students and grads build their businesses and advises on entrepreneurship and innovation.

    He’s an advisor now, but his expertise was hard-earned in the trenches. Before joining the university, he was a serial entrepreneur with his share of successes—like building Canada’s largest email marketing platform, ThinData—and some failures as well. After surviving and thriving through both the dotcom crash and the 2008 recession, Chris sees a world of possibilities in crisis situations and shows us how to see it too.