The Right Place, The Right Time

Town of Richmond Hill

Richmond Hill has much to boast about. Its residents are some of the highest educated in all of Canada; it has rich diversity of ethnicity and culture with a vibrant arts community; and it is one of the youngest towns in Canada, with almost sixty-four percent of its population under age forty-five. Richmond Hill has weathered the global financial crisis and its strong economy continues to grow.

Business in Focus spoke with Mayor Dave Barrow and Director of Strategic Initiatives Gwen Manderson about the town that excels in everything it does.

It is always a point of interest to know how a town or city thrives. What is its primary industry or business? What is it known for, and how will it progress into the future to maintain that healthy status? Municipalities, like businesses, need a plan of action. Richmond Hill has maintained a strong economy through the diversity of its offerings – not being dependent on any one particular sector or industry to support economic growth.

Location has something to do with it; being situated on Highway 404 and close to the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) certainly helps, but there is a lot more to this town.

“Our work force is like no other in regard to being highly educated. Just over seventy-seven percent of our population aged 25-64 has some form of post-secondary education. This is a really important figure and probably the highest in Canada,” says Mayor Barrow. The diversity of the workforce and the international connections to the Town are advantageous to business. Young families are choosing to live in Richmond Hill for its lifestyle and are then contributing to the economic growth in the community.

Many international companies have head offices in Richmond Hill. Some examples include BMW Canada, Country Style Food Services Inc., LEGO Canada, Levi Strauss Canada, Staples Canada, and Swiss Herbal Remedies Ltd. “The number of well known, global brands with head offices in Richmond Hill is an attraction in itself,” says Mayor Barrow. “We are also proud to be home to the head offices of many automobile companies.”

Not content with this impressive amount of business, the Town has a strategy to attract more. The Town’s Economic Development and International Marketing Strategies direct staff to develop opportunities in key sectors while maintaining close relationships with existing businesses.

For new entrepreneurs and smaller businesses, for example, the Town’s Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) helps people learn how to start and grow a business with the assistance of a business consultant, seminars and access to other professionals.

“We also work closely with ventureLAB, our Regional Innovation Centre,” says Mayor Barrow. “They help small businesses, particularly those in the technology and health sectors, to commercialize their products and pitch to investors. So, there is a lot of business incubation going on in Richmond Hill and in York Region. Through our SBEC and ventureLAB, the Town helps new businesses start and grow, hiring more employees and being awarded for that growth.”

The Town also maintains strong connections with Seneca College and York University. “These educational institutions seek out opportunities to connect to our business community. Programs are in place to assist with research and development, marketing, training of staff or hiring of students for internships.”

The economy is always unpredictable, but, regardless of the business climate, certain industries thrive. Richmond Hill succeeds by not depending on any singular industry, but rather by expanding to encompass many. There are four main business sectors in Richmond Hill: professional, scientific and technical; health; information and culture; and finance and insurance. Growth can be seen in all sectors and is predicted to continue going forward.

In the professional, scientific and technical sector, Richmond Hill has 537 companies with 6,800 employees working in areas such as computer systems design, architecture, management consulting and engineering. These businesses rely on the community’s highly skilled and educated workforce. The strong presence of these businesses in Richmond Hill makes it one of the country’s largest technology clusters.

Of course, Canada is on the edge of an explosion in the demand for healthcare and the 400 businesses in Richmond Hill’s health sector and their 4,800 employees are poised to deal with it. Health-related companies also benefit from Richmond Hill’s educated workforce, along with the Town’s access to some of Canada’s best post-secondary institutions.

Within the field of information and culture, 300 companies and 2,800 employees work in such areas as specialized design services, motion picture and video, advertising, public relations, print publishing, digital and multicultural media. Richmond Hill companies in this sector have become one of the most swiftly expanding portions of the economy. As society’s reliance on knowledge-based services and products grows, these companies develop a vast array of media from arts and design to books, video and internet solutions.

Finally, the finance and insurance sector in Richmond Hill has 200 companies with 2,800 employees. Being in the centre of the GTA, close to Canada’s financial capital markets, Richmond Hill is the ideal location for credit, financial investment firms and insurance carriers.

“I think we have a winning combination that keeps our economy growing,” enthuses the Mayor.

In the future, a planned subway extension will provide another link between Richmond Hill and the GTA. “Combined with our bus rapid transitway, local buses, GO train service and highway and road network, the Richmond Hill Centre will become Union Station of the north. This is a game changer for not only Richmond Hill but also for York Region.”

More than fifty percent of Richmond Hill’s population was born outside Canada and most of its growth is through immigration which provides a diverse resident base. People arrive with international connections and experience which add to the economic growth. “We are a very inclusive and open community,” says the Mayor. “We are home to individuals from 162 different ethnicities, who speak 88 different languages. That makes us a dynamic and attractive place to both live and work.”

Indeed, the Town goes out of its way to welcome everyone. “I truly believe that our sense of community and inclusiveness attracts the kind of people that grow our economy. From a community point of view, we engage our residents and businesses on our boards and committees,” says Mayor Barrow.

Richmond Hill’s strong leadership has resulted in a multitude of awards and accolades: the Award of Merit from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario; the Excellence Canada Ontario Accessibility Award which recognizes its commitment to providing exceptional customer service for people with disabilities; the Youth Friendly Community Recognition Award from Parks and Recreation Ontario; the Excellence in Economic Development Gold Award from the International Economic Development Council; the Waste Minimization Award from the Recycling Council of Ontario; and the Diversity in Governance Award from DiverseCity On Board, among many others.

And in 2010, the Conference Board of Canada’s City Magnets II Report voted Richmond Hill as one of the six most attractive cities in Canada in terms of education, innovation, economy, health, society and environment.

The Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts is now five years old and is the largest theatre in York Region. Gwen and Dave say that the community has really embraced it as their own. Incredible community involvement means that the majority of shows involve community programming as opposed to traveling shows and presentations. “That’s the symphony, philharmonic, operas and every dance studio in town. The Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts has been adopted by the community; it is their theatre. We have seen a positive response from across the region – it is a huge success.”

The dynamic arts community is further enhanced by the Richmond Hill Group of Artists, which provides local artists the opportunity to exhibit their work.

There are a number of festivals held in town. The winter carnival is usually held in the first week of February and is a huge community attraction. Ribfest is one regional attraction, and the Yonge Street business area hosts the 5 Senses Festival arts and culture celebration which draws many people as well. In the summer, there is a unique event called Tastes of the Hill which is a showcase of the diverse cuisine available in Richmond Hill. “It is a one-day festival with entertainment that represents the community and cultural background of our residents. Certainly food always brings us together,” says Mayor Barrow. The Concerts in the Park series takes place all summer in two parks and draws visitors from all over the region and even from abroad, drawn by the quality of the performances. Currently the Town is drafting a festival and events strategy in order to be able to showcase the community even further.

To be sure, living in Richmond Hill is a constant state of discovery. This vibrant town continues to have a very bright future.

For more information about the Town of Richmond Hill, please visit

June 20, 2021, 8:47 AM EDT