Growing With A City
Enbridge Gas Distribution and Toronto share close ties, long history
Today, the Consumers Road sign outside Enbridge Gas Distribution's (EGD) head office building in North York, Ontario, is a small reminder of the days when the company was once known as Consumers Gas. For Manny Sousa, it's also a reminder of the company's long-standing relationship with Toronto, Canada's largest city.
"EGD and the city have evolved over the years hand in hand," said Sousa, Enbridge Gas Distribution's Manager of Community and Municipal Relations. "If you think about Toronto's history, we've been integral to the building of the city."
EGD and the City of Toronto have evolved over the years hand in hand.
Back then, in 1848, the company began as the Consumers' Gas Company of Toronto, with the goal of providing better quality gas for street lights. In the early 1850s, it built its head office on Toronto Street in the heart of the downtown. And as the city and its energy needs changed, so did the company, moving from the manufactured gas business to become a major distributor of natural gas, starting in the 1950s.
"We started in this city. We've grown from our base in Toronto. And we still have a huge impact on the life and economy of the city," said Sousa of the company, which today, at more than 160 years, is the longest serving utility in Toronto and the province.
For starters, the largest share of the company's 1.9 million customer base resides in the Toronto area.
"Many homes in the metropolitan region are heated by natural gas. We have about 400,000 customers just in the City of Toronto, and if you include the Greater Toronto Area, that increases to 1.1 million," said Sousa.
In keeping with this large customer base, EGD spends a sizable chunk of its capital budget each year in the Toronto region. Currently the company invests about $100 million on its Toronto construction and maintenance program. These are dollars that pay for contractors and supplies, including local companies and workers.
In addition, EGD is a key contributor to the Toronto tax base, through taxes assessed on underground pipe, buildings and regulator stations. Last year, it paid $8.6 million to the city in property taxes. About 54 percent of these dollars was used to help fund municipal services such as public transit, police, fire and social services. The remainder was used to fund school boards in Toronto and across Ontario.
This is a contribution to the tax base that has been made over many decades, going right back to the company's founding.
"The fact that the company pays property taxes is in part a direct reflection of the age of the utility," explained Sousa. "At the time of the company's founding, property taxes were the primary tax instrument that the province had."
Today, the company's historical legacy continues to benefit the city in other ways, including through its buildings, past and present, which are scattered throughout the Toronto region.
The company's old headquarters on Toronto Street is now a restaurant. The company's gas manufacturing plant near Front Street is home to the Canadian Opera Company. And since moving its head office to North York in 1967, at a time when the area bordered on farmers' fields, the company has helped to anchor growth over the years in a new metropolitan area.
Today more than 1,400 EGD employees and contractors work in the five-story building on Consumers Road — enough to easily place the company among the top 100 largest employers in the Toronto region.
The presence of EGD's head office in the region contributes to a critical mass of head offices in the Toronto area that is seen as boosting local economic vitality.
"There's a symbiotic relationship between large city regions like Toronto and large head office firms like Enbridge," explained Peter Viducis, Manager of Economic and Cultural Research for the City of Toronto. "Head offices create a demand for outside business services, whether it be financial, legal, advertising or IT. Their employees also demand excellence in consumption goods, like culture and entertainment. So, head offices are an important driver for parts of the local economy."
The existence of head offices in the region also benefits charities. A recent study by the Toronto-based Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity says head offices of large Canadian companies play an important role in local communities. This extends to contributions and sponsorships in the local community.
Certainly, EGD continues to be an active supporter of local charities. Last year, the company invested $1.4 million in community initiatives in the city. The Toronto Symphony and United Way Toronto are just a couple of organizations that benefit from EGD donations each year. In addition, EGD's employees serve on the boards of many charities and give their time and energy to a wide range of community causes.
"At the end of the day, it's not just about the money we pay into the city, it's the kind of contribution we make," said Sousa. "I'd like to think we've built a really good legacy in Toronto. When the company started in 1848, it had a motto 'for the good of the community.' That's a motto that we still live by today."
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