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U of T President Meric Gertler at the Toronto Region Board of Trade

“We can make this region an even better place in which to live, study, work and prosper”

President Meric Gertler addresses the Toronto Region Board of Trade (all photos by John Guatto)

A strong university helps build a strong city and a strong city helps build a strong university, President Meric Gertler told a sold-out audience at the Toronto Region Board of Trade May 29.

Among those who listened to Gertler’s message of the need for town-gown collaboration were Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat and Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy, as well as U of T Chancellor Michael Wilson, former U of T Chancellors David Peterson, and Hal Jackman, Governing Council Chair Judy Goldring and former U of T President Robert Prichard.

Gertler used the example of the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto to illustrate his point: “U of T and Toronto are simply exemplars of a world-class, research-intensive university on the one hand and a major global city-region on the other.”

For example, he pointed out, Toronto benefits from the U of T through the economic stimulus of $250 million in local research collaboration, and the spending of 16,000 employees and 80,000 students.

“When you add up all the salaries and benefits paid to our faculty and staff (and the purchasing power they represent), as well as the expenditures of the University and our students, the U of T community contributes an economic stimulus of $12 billion annually to the province of Ontario, with most of that stimulus within the GTA – that’s about 20% more than the City’s entire annual operating budget,” said Gertler.

In addition, 16,500 students graduate from the university each year, he said, with most getting jobs in the Toronto region.

“Toronto is a terrific place to build a career in nearly any field, and employers in this region clearly benefit from the supply of well-educated graduates flowing from its universities and colleges.”

He also pointed to community services provided by students, such as the dentistry students who serve 78,000 patient-visits each year, and the students who work with community partners at the East Scarborough Storefront, serving the social needs of residents in Kingston-Galloway and Orton Park.

Gertler noted U of T’s success in fostering entrepreneurism. In the past three years, he said, the university’s students and faculty have created more start-up companies than any other North American university, ahead of MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Caltech, Harvard and others.

But the president emphasized that this entrepreneurial success depends on a strong Toronto.

“Much of this success is due to the remarkable students, faculty, and staff on our three campuses. But we must also give credit to the very special region in which we are situated,” he acknowledged. “You cannot plunk a university just anywhere and expect it to trigger the formation of a local innovation cluster. The Toronto region’s success as an emerging innovation and entrepreneurship powerhouse rests equally on its tremendous multi-sectoral, convergent strength. This unusually diverse economic base provides a powerful spark for innovation and entrepreneurship, drawing on a rich environment of specialized suppliers and services.”

And U of T benefits from international students and researchers who are attracted by Toronto’s cultural liveliness, social harmony, safe and vibrant neighbourhoods and schools and libraries, Gertler said.

The president said U of T is ready to work with local governments – along with Ryerson, York, OCAD and other institutions – to help address the region’s most pressing challenges.

“I know we can make this region an even better place in which to live, study, work and prosper,” he concluded.

Read the complete text of President Gertler’s address to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

May 30, 2014