UTM gets creative in seeking $10M grant from Mississauga

A budget squeeze at City Hall is making it hard for groups to get the city to hand out millions for worthwhile projects, so University of Toronto Mississauga is getting creative.

UTM is seeking $10 million from the city for a new innovation centre by asking to spread the grant over a decade and calling it an investment in the city’s future knowledge economy.

It also hired a big accounting firm to help bolster its case that the money will pay dividends in the future with new UTM jobs, more students and potential new tax-paying businesses in Mississauga.

“We knew if we asked for it in one shot it would be hard for the city,” UTM Principal Deep Saini told YourMississaugaBiz.com in an interview Thursday.

While the city faces future big bills for transit, policing and emergency services, local politicians also strongly back the high-tech and pharma sectors and already fund innovation efforts like RIC and Advantage Mississauga that will help grow the knowledge economy of the future.

Saini said UTM doesn’t want to cause an “excessive amount of pain” to the city with its grant request, which still leaves the school to raise another $60 million to build the Innovation Centre.

And while Mayor Hazel McCallion acknowledged it would be difficult for the city to set aside the money, Saini said the investment, broken down, would only cost $1.30 per year for each resident of Mississauga. “So it’s less than a small cup of coffee at Tim Hortons,” he said.

Research from KPMG, which UTM hired to help make its case for the grant, also said the money would reap significant economic benefits through taxes, new jobs and additional student enrolment.

“We wanted it to be credible evidence, not what could be perceived as bias evidence by the beneficiary,” Saini said.

The firm determined the city had recovered more than 100 per cent of its initial $3.5 million investment in UTM’s Institute of Communication, Culture and Information Technology through taxes and fees.

But KPMG also determined that money led to 1,200 new UTM students, 66 new academic and non-academic positions, 107 full-time jobs in the community, $10 million in labour income and $1.5 million in annual business income.

They also estimated economic benefits of the $10 million investment for the Innovation Complex to be 101 full-time jobs in the community, $20.7 million in job  income annually and $1.5 million in business income.

Saini also said the money will help the university hire more professors and teachers to reduce class sizes.

As for the future, Saini emphasized council still needs to hold a formal vote on the matter.

There’s also the campus’s construction plans for the next five to 10 years. “We need to build about $250 million worth of facilities just to keep up with the growth that is happening,” Saini said.

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